Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar speaking on the floor of the Senate in this undated picture. — APP/File


Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar speaking on the floor of the Senate in this undated picture. — APP/File
  • Bill aimed to make SC proceedings transparent: law minister.
  • Azam Nazeer Tarar says bill also includes right to appeal.
  • Says benches set by committee proposed in bill to hear SC cases.

In a bid to bolster checks and balances in the higher judiciary, the National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Wednesday gave its consent to the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, tabled to limit Pakistan’s top judge’s discretionary powers to take suo motu notice.  

The bill was moved by the government after two Supreme Court judges — Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail — raised questions over the powers of the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP), saying the apex court “cannot be dependent on the solitary decision of one man, the Chief Justice”.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, during the meeting, said that the bill aims to have transparent proceedings in the top court. “This bill was an old demand of the Bar Council which said that indiscriminate use of 184(3) should be stopped,” he added. 

Tarar said that the bill includes the right to appeal, adding that it was time for the Parliament to legislate on it now. 

“After Iftikhar Chaudhry, three other judges avoided taking the suo motu notice,” said the law minister, adding that former CJP Saqib Nisar used the suo motu notice without any hesitation.

The minister said that voices were raised against the “one-man show” and that recently, a dissenting note of the two judges of the Supreme Court had also come to the fore. 

“Demands were made that Parliament should introduce a law on this,” he said. He added that the Bar raised its voice on the freedom of court and that two groups praised the bill. 

Tarar said that the committee proposed in the bill would regulate the matter, adding that every case and appeal before the Supreme Court would be heard and wrapped up by the bench formed by the committee. 

The committee will comprise the CJP and two senior judges, said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader. 

Tarar said that the bill is in the legal interest and added that it is a constitutional freedom for a person to change their lawyer. “The right to appeal the pending cases will also be amended in the bill,” he stated. 

PML-N leader Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha said that Constitution and legislation are Parliament’s job while its interpretation is the judiciary’s job. 

“Let us do our job and let them do theirs,” he added. 

Moreover, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s (F) Alia Kamran said that this is the right time to bring the bill. 

The bill

The bill includes shifting the powers of taking suo motu notice from the chief justice to a three-member committee comprising senior judges.

Moreover, the bill also includes a clause regarding the right of challenging the decision which could be filed within 30 days and will then be fixed for a hearing in two weeks.

According to the bill — a copy of which was seen by Geo News — every clause, appeal or matter before the Supreme Court shall be heard and disposed of by a bench constituted by the committee comprising the CJP and two senior judges, in order of seniority.

The bill also mentioned that the decision of the committee shall be by the majority. However, the two SC judges in their detailed notes had juxtaposed majority rule with “dictatorship”.

They said: “Taking all decisions only by majority rule is no less dictatorship, and the absolutist approach to controversial issues is the hallmark of extremists.”

It was also mentioned in the bill that any matter invoking the exercise of original jurisdiction under clause (3) of Article 184 of the Constitution shall be placed before the committee constituted under section 2 for examination and if the committee is of the view that a question of public importance with reference to enforcement of any of the fundamental rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II of the constitution is involved, it shall constitute a bench comprising not less than three judges of the Supreme Court which may also include the members of the committee, for adjudication of the matter.

Meanwhile, in matters where interpretation of the constitutional provision is involved, the committee shall constitute a bench comprising not less than five judges of the apex court.

The bill also grants the party the to appoint counsel of its choice for filing a review application under Article 188 of the Constitution. It should be noted that the counsel, for this purpose, shall mean an advocate of the Supreme Court.

“An application pleading urgency or seeking interim relief, filed in a cause, appeal or matter, shall be fixed for hearing within fourteen days from the date of its filing,” the bill read.


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