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SC law clipping CJP’s suo moto powers challenged

LAHORE: The Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023, which seeks to limit the chief justice of Pakistan’s (CJP) suo motu powers, has been challenged before the Supreme Court Lahore registry.

Shahid Rana, a lawyer, filed a petition with the Supreme Court’s Lahore registry.

The petitioner claimed that the chief justice of Pakistan has administrative power over the arrangement of benches in the Supreme Court.

It contends that the right to appeal in suo motu instances cannot be realized without constitutional modifications.

The petitioner requested that the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 be declared null and void.

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, the National Assembly last Friday notified the conversion of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, which intends to limit the chief justice of Pakistan’s (CJP) suo motu powers, into an act.

The National Assembly Secretariat announced that the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) bill was regarded to have been assented to by the president (with effect from April 21, 2023) under Clause (2) of Article 75 of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Constitution.

President Dr Arif Alvi, for the second time, declined to grant his approval to the Supreme Court (Practise and Procedure) Bill, 2023 and returned it to parliament, claiming that the matter was now before the apex court

The bill

The Supreme Court (Practise and Procedure) Bill, 2023, was passed with the intention of granting the power of taking suo motu notice to a three-member committee comprised of senior judges, including the Chief Justice. It also contains the right to appeal and aspires for transparent proceedings in the Supreme Court.

In terms of bench composition, the bill provides that every case, matter, or appeal before the Supreme Court will be heard and decided by a bench composed of the CJP and the two senior-most judges. It went on to say that the committee’s choices will be made by a majority vote.

In terms of exercising the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction, the law stated that any subject invoked under Article 184(3) would first be heard by the aforementioned committee.

According to the bill, if the committee believes that a question of public importance involving the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II of the Constitution is involved, it shall convene a bench of not less than three judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which may also include committee members, for adjudication of the matter.

The measure also stated that a party would have the ability to pick its own counsel when submitting a review application under Article 188 of the constitution.

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