Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Thursday adjourned the hearing on a set of petitions against the Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Act, 2023 — aimed at limiting the powers of the top judge — till next week after Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan said the federal government had decided to review the legislation.
The hearing — which was conducted by an eight-judge bench comprising the CJP, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed — was put off shortly after it commenced.
The same bench had on April 13 suspended the law before it was enacted. However, on April 21, the bill did become law even as its implementation had been halted by the court.
The law envisages a three-member committee, comprising the CJP and two senior-most judges, which will via majority form benches as well as decide when to take suo motu action — powers that currently reside with the CJP alone.
It also adds to the review jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, giving the right to file an appeal within 30 days of the judgement in suo motu cases. This provision will apply retrospectively, through which legal observers believe former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Khan Tareen will be able to file appeals to their lifetime disqualifications under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution
Meanwhile, after the top court suspended the SC procedures law, the parliament passed another version of it, removing sections related to curtailing the CJP’s powers but including those on the court’s review jurisdiction in suo moto cases. This new law, titled ‘The Supreme Court (Review of Judgements and Order) Act 2023’ was enacted last week.
The law “aimed at facilitating and strengthening the Supreme Court in exercising its powers to review its judgements and orders” was tabled in the National Assembly on April 14 and passed the same day, while the Senate approved its passage on May 5 amid protests by the opposition.