ISLAMABAD – Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has said the Supreme Court has constitutional authority to review laws made by the parliament that do not conform to the constitution.
It was by no means ‘judicial activism’ but a ‘non-traditional’ power of the Supreme Court that was being used to address cases involving the fundamental rights of the people, the chief justice said. Law applies to all irrespective of their status, power, caste, creed and religion and no one can claim supremacy over and above the law, he added.
He said the Supreme Court in its successive judgments has stressed the need for adherence to the law and the constitution and compliance with rule of law and due process requirement to establish a system of civilised governance in the country. It has always squarely adjudicated upon the matters pending before it within the confines of law and constitution in order to ensure continuation of the democratic process in the country, he further said.
Talking about the constitutional scheme in the country, the CJ said: “In our country there is a parliamentary system. From 1973 onward there have been national assemblies and senates but on account of constitutional turmoil, which came time and again, there had been intervention in parliamentary system, therefore, the expectations of people attached to the parliament could not be fulfilled.”
He said the parliament cannot make any law that is repugnant to constitution and injunctions of Islam and is contrary to fundamental laws; if such law is promulgated, the Supreme Court under its power of Judicial Review can review it. The underlying object of judicial review is to check abuse of power by the public functionaries and ensure just and fair treatment to the citizens in accordance with the law and constitutional norms.
Talking about the trichotomy of power, he said that every organ of the state enjoys complete institutional independence within its constitutional domain, however, any excess or misuse of power beyond that domain becomes the subject matter of judicial scrutiny. The judicial institution of the state, with Supreme Court as the final arbiter, acts as the ultimate protector of the rights of citizens and serves as upholder of the constitutional supremacy.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan enjoys original, appellate and advisory jurisdiction, he said. The advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court extends to matters referred to it by the president for obtaining its opinion on any question of law which he considers of public importance.
Citing an example he said in 2005, the Supreme Court while deciding a presidential reference made under article 186 of the constitution declared certain provisions of North-West Frontier Province Hasba Bill as null and void. The SC also has the jurisdiction to pronounce declaratory judgments in any dispute between the federal government and a provincial government or between any two or more provincial governments under article 184(1), he added.
Talking about the fundamental rights, he said, “Where any question of public importance arises with reference to the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights ensured by the constitution; the Supreme Court has the power to make any appropriate order for the enforcement of these rights.
The chief justice advised the members of Youth Parliament to study the basic features of our constitution and, also, how the document has been interpreted by courts. He told the delegation that the youth were the democratic leaders of the future. He appreciated the concept and objective of the Youth Parliament and said it was encouraging to involve the youth in such sessions to educate them and develop their personalities with a view to preparing them for the challenges of practical life.
The delegation, which met with the CJ at the SC building, was accompanied by members of Youth Parliament Steering Committee Chairman SM Zafar, Steering Committee Member and former NA deputy speaker Wazir Ahmed Jogezai, and other office bearers
Senator SM Zafar addressing the delegation said that the Youth Parliament was willing to bring about a change if they were given a chance. Commenting on the issue of Balochistan, he said that the Baloch were satisfied that their grievances were being addressed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.