Lawyers in Pakistan have lodged petitions in both the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court, challenging a recent bill passed by a joint session of parliament which aims to limit the powers of the chief justice.
The bill, known as the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, had initially been passed by both houses of parliament last month, but it was later returned by President Arif Alvi. On Monday, the joint session approved the bill with several amendments.
Advocate Muhammad Shafay Munir submitted a petition to the Supreme Court, stating that the legislation posed a significant threat to the Constitution and the independence of the judiciary. Munir further emphasized his belief in the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary. He had always fought to protect these values and the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. The respondents named in the petition included the federal government, through the secretaries of law, Senate, and National Assembly.
Similarly, another petition was filed in the Islamabad High Court, asserting that the bill had limited the chief justice’s jurisdiction by requiring him to consult with senior judges when forming benches. The petitioner maintained that the legal community had demanded the right to appeal against suo motu proceedings, but this could have been accomplished without restricting the chief justice’s powers.
Both petitions requested the courts to declare the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 null and void from the outset. It remains to be seen how the courts will respond to these challenges. However, the petitions are likely to ignite a legal battle that could have significant implications for the judiciary and the broader political landscape in Pakistan.