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Thursday, February 15, 2024

SC issues written order on hearing of bill limiting CJP’s powers

The court has directed the Attorney General to present the audio recordings of the National Assembly on the next date of hearing, while also instructing the Parliament's joint sessions and standing committees to provide records.

The Supreme Court has issued a written order for the previous hearing of constitutional petitions against the Practice and Procedure Act. The restraining order on the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill will remain in place until further notice. 

An eight-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial heard the case on May 2nd and has now issued a written order.

According to the court’s decision, even after the passing of the act, notice will be issued on new constitutional petitions filed. These petitions raise important legal issues.

Read more: Why Caesar’s wife should be above reproach – Supreme Courts in eyes of the storm

The court has directed the Attorney General to present the audio recordings of the National Assembly on the next date of hearing, while also instructing the Parliament’s joint sessions and standing committees to provide records.

The court’s order did not mention the objection of the Pakistan Bar Council regarding the eight-member bench. The court has directed both parties to submit a comprehensive response by May 8th.”

On Tuesday, when an eight-judge larger bench resumed hearing the pleas challenging the bill, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandail noted that the court’s latest order suspending the act was provisional in nature.

He noted that democracy as well as the judiciary and federation are key features of the 1973 Constitution. “It is to be seen whether a feature [judiciary] can be changed. This is, therefore, a unique case,” he said.

The CJP said the court expected to hear a serious debate and both sides must properly assist the bench. “This [Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Act 2023] is the first law in the history of the country which deals with the third pillar of the state [judiciary].” Referring to Section 55 of the Federal Legislative List, the top judge noted that there are some limitations to the parliament’s power to legislate.

Read more: Annoyed SC orders State Bank to release funds for elections

The parliament and judiciary have been locked in a power struggle that has raised questions about the moral authority and legitimacy of the Supreme Court, the parliament’s authority to legislate on the court’s jurisdiction, and the need for curtailing the country’s top judge’s absolute and “imperial” powers. The latest episode in this struggle is the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, which was passed by the Parliament of Pakistan.