CJP, two senior most judges to constitute benches: Justice Isa

News Desk
Tuesday, Sep 19, 2023

ISLAMABAD: A three-member panel, comprising the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) and two senior most judges, would decide the formation of benches, ordered CJP Qazi Faez Isa on Monday, as a full court began hearing petitions challenging the SC (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023.

During the hearing, Justice Isa observed that parliament’s Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 was not an attempt to clip the top judge’s rights by devolving the suo motu powers to a three-member committee, Geo News reported.

The historic hearing, which was held almost throughout the day, was adjourned till October 3, with the CJP asking lawyers to submit their written arguments by Sept 25.

The hearing was seen as historic because the Supreme Court for the first time in the country’s judicial history allowed live broadcast of proceedings on the petitions challenging the contentious law seeking to regulate suo motu powers of the country’s top judge.

CJP Isa said arguments in the case will begin afresh because the new bench has been formed. There were three applications to make a full court, which had been approved, CJP Isa observed.

Ahead of the hearing, the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan submitted the federal government’s response in the matter, requesting the court to reject the petitions against the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act.

“Petitions against acts of parliament are inadmissible. [Therefore,] the petitions against the Practice and Procedure Act should be dismissed,” the response submitted by the government contended.

The full court was constituted by newly-appointed Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa and includes Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha A Malik, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

Upon his arrival, CJP Isa — who reached the apex court in his personal car without protocol — said to the SC staff: “People come to the Supreme Court to solve their problems. Treat visitors like guests.” He further said the doors to justice should be kept open.

During the hearing, the CJP remarked: “This court runs on the taxes of the people.” If this law is struck down, the chief justice will benefit, the CJP said. However, he added: “A judge takes an oath to abide by the Constitution and the law.”He further observed that as the top judge of the country, he did not want absolute authority. “Rs6.5 billion dollars were lost due to the court’s decision in the Reko Diq case, As chief justice, I do not want such authority,” the CJP remarked.

“I have not sworn to obey the judgments of the Supreme Court. I have taken oath to uphold the law and the Constitution,” he said.After a brief hiatus, Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan appeared before the court and argued that the petitions were inadmissible. He said the law dealt with the powers of one office, not the entire judiciary, and aimed to bring “democratic transparency” to the institution. He further contended that the law, au contraire to the claims of the petitioners, actually served in the public interest.

During the course of proceedings, CJP Isa observed that there was also a public opinion that Article 184/3 was misused. The three-member bench nullified the Reko Diq agreement causing a loss of $6.5 billion to the country.

It was the opinion of the judges and it was not corrected, he added. The top judge admitted that they made mistakes. “Mistake was made in the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s case.”

“We have a huge ego. We endorsed martial law,” the CJP remarked, adding that the judges should admit that they also made omissions. CJP Isa continued, “We take suo motu notices over every matter then whey can’t on legislation about ourselves.”

In Bhutto’s case, the review petition was also heard by the same judges who handed him the death penalty, the top judge stated. “Our ego should not be so huge that we do not admit our mistake.”

At that, Justice Minallah asked if the masses filed petitions after the endorsement of martial law and said: “We should also be held accountable.”

On April 13, an eight-member bench of the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the law, which deals with the powers of the top judge in matters of public interest and seeks to limit the suo moto powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

During the previous hearing in June, the similarities between the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023 — which relates to the right of appeal in suo motu cases — and the SC Practice and Procedure Act were discussed with Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan saying that parliament could look into “harmonising” the two laws.

The then-CJP — while he welcomed the proposal — said the federal government should take the top court into consideration when making any legislation related to the judiciary.