Judicial Independence

The ongoing legal battle surrounding Pakistan’s Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act 2023 has significant implications for the balance of power between the judiciary and the legislature. CJ Qazi Faez Isa’s recent signal that proceedings may soon conclude highlights the contentious nature of this law, which aims to regulate judicial powers and procedures. This contention may stem from the view that the act has the potential to reshape our legal landscape, as it raises concerns about the fundamental principles of democracy, the separation of powers, and the independence of the judiciary.
The SC (Practice and Procedure) Act has emerged as a subject of debate, questioning its compatibility with democratic values and the separation of powers. The bill’s provisions regarding the formation of a committee composed of senior judges, including the chief justice, to exercise suo motu notice-taking authority and adjudicate on matters of significant public importance, raise concerns about the concentration of power. This centralised authority potentially undermines the checks and balances essential for democratic governance and erodes the autonomy of the judiciary.
The Act’s impact on the independence of the judiciary cannot be ignored. Granting the committee authority to form benches and the right to hear cases related to fundamental rights can compromise the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. The Act’s delegation of powers previously held by the chief justice to this committee dilutes the authority of the highest judicial position, potentially making the judiciary susceptible to external influences. This erosion of judicial independence undermines the principle of fair and unbiased judgment, jeopardising the trust and confidence of the general public in the judiciary.
The SC (Practice and Procedure) Act raises questions regarding the competence of the legislature to enact such legislation. While CJP Isa highlights that the Act does not curtail the chief justice’s powers but rather devolves them among the judges, concerns remain over the constitutional validity of the bill. The debate should not only revolve around the legislative competence but also scrutinise whether the bill aligns with the constitutional framework. A judicious decision by the court is crucial to safeguard justice, democratic values, and Pakistan’s legal framework. The balance between the judiciary and the legislature must be maintained to reinforce the bedrock of justice and governance in the country.

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