On Thursday, the Pakistani Senate passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, which limits the Chief Justice’s powers, amid opposition protests. The National Assembly of Pakistan has passed a bill that aims to prevent the Chief Justice of Pakistan from taking suo motu notice in an individual capacity. The bill was presented by Federal Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar and was passed after the Standing Committee on Law and Justice approved the cabinet’s proposed amendments.
A motion to send the bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice for further debate was presented before the final vote but was rejected. Following this, a motion for urgent approval was presented and accepted by the majority of lawmakers. According to the Law Minister, Azam Nazir Tarar, the proposed law grants the right to appeal in suo motu cases and to appoint a different lawyer in appeals. However, the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Shahzad Waseem, criticized the bill, claiming that it creates division in the Supreme Court by making rules for it.
Senator Ali Zafar of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party raised two objections to the bill, warning that passing laws this way would result in it being struck down within 15 days and that the right to appeal can only be given through the Constitution. The Senator also noted that some changes suggested by the bill were illegal and some lawyers were divided on the issue.
The National Assembly passed the bill a day earlier to limit the Chief Justice’s discretionary powers to take suo motu notice to strengthen checks and balances in the higher judiciary. The bill was passed shortly after the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice gave its consent.
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The bill shifts the powers of taking suo motu notice from the Chief Justice to a three-member committee comprising senior judges. It also includes a clause on the right to challenge the decision, which can be filed within 30 days and will be fixed for a hearing in two weeks.
According to the bill, every clause, appeal, or matter before the Supreme Court shall be heard and disposed of by a bench constituted by the committee comprising the Chief Justice and two senior judges in order of seniority. The committee’s decision shall be made by the majority.
Moreover, the bill grants the party the right to appoint counsel of its choice for filing a review application under Article 188 of the Constitution. It also states that 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.