After President’s Refusal, Joint Parliament Session to Consider Controversial Supreme Court Bill Today

Mon Apr 10 2023
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The joint sitting will take up the bill aimed at clipping the powers of the CJP regarding the suo-moto and formation of benches after President Alvi returned it back to the parliament for reconsideration


By Special Correspondent


ISLAMABAD: A joint sitting of the parliament will take up today (Monday) the controversial Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 aimed at curtailing the powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan regarding suo-moto and formation of benches and also giving the right to appeal in all suo-moto cases with retrospective effect after President Alvi returned it back to the parliament for reconsideration, saying the ‘colourable legislation’ is beyond the jurisdiction of the legislative body and is susceptible to challenge as a specious enactment.


A federal cabinet meeting had, on Sunday, decided to refer to the parliament the issue of releasing funds to the Election Commission for holding elections for the Punjab Assembly on May 14 as ordered by the top court. PM Sharif chaired the meeting at his Model Town residence Lahore. A press release issued after the federal cabinet meeting said that the participants of the meeting discussed in detail the supreme court’s ‘4-3 verdict’ and also the resolution adopted by the NA on April 6, 2023. According to the statement, Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar briefed the meeting about different legal and constitutional aspects.

Federal Cabinet Decides to Place Punjab Polls Funds Issue Before Parliament


After a threadbare discussion and consultations on the subject, the cabinet directed the ministry of finance to consult the ministry of law for preparing a summary so as to get guidance from the parliament on the matter and present it before the cabinet meeting to be held again today (April 10), for making a decision on the future line of action, concluded the statement.


The federal government has convened a joint sitting of the two houses of the parliament today to also consider the bill. If the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, is passed in the joint session of the parliament by majority, it will be put up to the president again for his assent. If the president does not give his nod to the bill within 10 days, the approval is deemed to have been given. The legislation process says, “If the President refers back a bill to Parliament, it can be considered in a joint session and if passed by majority is deemed to have been passed by both Houses. Sent again to the president to give assent in 10 days failing which assent shall be deemed to have been given”.


President Alvi sent the bill back to parliament


President Alvi had declined to sign the Supreme Court bill, saying the legislation “prima-facie travels beyond the competence of the Parliament and can be assailed as a colourable legislation”. The bill was sent to him for approval after it sailed through both houses of the parliament; the National Assembly and Senate amid a standoff between the government and Supreme Court over general elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The president also cited Article 67 and Article 191 of the Constitution that defines the limits of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the parliament. He said the top court was an independent institution as visualised by the founding fathers that in the State of Pakistan ‘independence of judiciary shall be fully secured’. With such an objective in view, Article 191 was incorporated and the Supreme Court was kept out of the law-making authority of the Parliament.

Justice Isa, Supreme Court


He said that he deemed it fit and proper to return the bill, in accordance with the constitution, with the request for reconsideration in order to meet the scrutiny about its validity (if assailed in the Court of Law).


Under the new legislation, the decision for suo-moto notice will be taken by three senior judges of the Supreme Court.


Besides, the bill also includes a clause regarding the right to appeal against the decision, which could be filed within 30 days and fixed for a hearing in two weeks. The act will be taken into effect on all verdicts of the high courts and the Supreme Court.


The amendments proposed in the Supreme Court’s rules sparked a fresh debate in legal and political circles and it is expected that the bill may be struck down by the apex court.

When Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar moved the bill in the Senate, strong opposition was seen from the PTI members as they raised banners reading “attack on judiciary unacceptable”.

Procedurally, after bills are passed by the joint sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate, they are presented to the president for his assent. If the president does not give his approval within 10 days, it will be deemed to have been given.


Clauses of the bill


Regarding the constitution of benches, the bill states that every cause, matter or appeal before the apex court would be heard and disposed of by a bench constituted by a committee comprising the CJP and the two senior-most judges. It added that the decisions of the committee would be taken by a majority.


Regarding exercising the apex court’s original jurisdiction, the bill said that any matter invoking the use of Article 184(3) would first be placed before the abovementioned committee.

On matters where the interpretation of the Constitution is required, the bill said the abovementioned committee would compose a bench comprising no less than five apex court judges for the task.


Regarding appeals for any verdict by an apex court bench which exercised Article 184(3)‘s jurisdiction, the bill said that the appeal will lie within 30 days of the bench’s order to a larger Supreme Court bench. It added that the appeal would be fixed for hearing within a period not exceeding 14 days.


It added that this right of appeal would also extend retroactively to those aggrieved persons against whom an order was made under Article 184(3) prior to the commencement of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Bill 2023, on the condition that the appeal was filed within 30 days of the act’s commencement.


The bill additionally said that a party would have the right to appoint its counsel of choice for filing a review application under Article 188 of the Constitution.


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