Joint Parliament session passes key bill to reform SC ‘bench’

Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 recommends an appeal shall lie within 30 days from final order n Bill proposes a committee comprising CJP, two senior most judges to hear and dispose of every cause, appeal or matter before top court.

ISLAMABAD     -    The Joint Sitting of Par­liament on Monday passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 amid protest by the PTI lawmakers mostly be­longing to upper house. 

Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar moved the Su­preme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 which was passed by the Parliament. It is to mention that Pres­ident Dr Arif Alvi had returned the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 for reconsideration to the Parliament as per the provisions of Article 75 of the Constitution. 

The minister read out the message of the Pres­ident who returned the bill for reconsideration. He said that bill was dis­cussed in detail in Na­tional Assembly and it was also approved by the Senate. 

The minister re­sponded to the objec­tions of the bill and said the "President used in­appropriate words while returning this bill and used a biased ap­proach". He said that he should think "as the President rather than a political worker". 

The minister said it was the demand of the bar associations and councils to introduce the bill and they had sup­ported the bill. This bill, he said, was an old de­mand of the Bar Council which said that the indis­criminate use of 184(3) should be stopped.

The joint sitting of Parliament reconsid­ered it and passed the legislative proposal. Former Minister for Law and Justice and Senator Farooq H. Naek and JUI-F Senator Kamran Mur­taza spoke on the various sec­tions of the bill and were of the view that was the right time of legislation which would ensure reforms in judicial affairs.

MNA Ms. Shaza Fatima Kha­waja moved amendments in the bill and the Minister for Law and Justice did not oppose them. He said that these amendments will bring more clarity to the ju­dicial affairs and ensure trans­parency while forming bench. However, the amendments moved by JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmed were rejected. It is men­tioned that the President shall give his assent within ten days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given. 

Sub-Article 2 of Article 75 of the Constitution of Paki­stan states “ When the Presi­dent has returned a Bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), it shall be reconsidered by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in joint sitting and, if it is again passed, with or without amend­ment, by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), by the votes of the majority of the members of both Houses present and vot­ing; it shall be deemed for the purposes of the Constitution to have been passed by both Houses and shall be presented to the President, and the Presi­dent shall give his assent with­in ten days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given.

The passed bill – the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 – aims at giving the power of taking suo motu no­tice to a three-member com­mittee comprising senior judg­es including Chief Justice. It also aims to have transparent pro­ceedings in the apex court and includes the right to appeal.

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 above mentioned committee.

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

On matters where the inter­pretation of the Constitution is required, the bill said the above mentioned 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 that 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 retro­spectively 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. Further­more, it states that an applica­tion pleading urgency or seeking interim relief, filed in a cause, ap­peal or matter, shall be fixed for hearing within 14 days from the date of its filing. The bill said that its provisions would have effect notwithstanding anything con­tained in any other law, rules, or regulations for the time being in force or judgment of any court, including the Supreme Court and high courts.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Monday passed a ruling-alli­ance-sponsored “controver­sial” resolution seeking holding of general elections of all pro­vincial assemblies and the Na­tional Assembly simultaneously “for strengthening the Feder­ation” in absence of the oppo­sition PTI. The House hurried­ly passed the resolution, which was not on the orders of the day, soon after the PTI staged a to­ken walkout from the house over the rejection of another resolution moved by the par­ty demanding restart of its last government’s Federal Ehsaas Rashan Riayat Program.

The resolution moved by Ta­hir Bizenjo noted that the House firmly believes that political sta­bility is important for economic stability. It said that according to the spirit of article 280, the gen­eral elections for all the assem­blies must be held simultaneous­ly on its stipulated time under neutral caretaker setups to bring true political and economic sta­bility. Winding upon discussion on a motion, Minister for Pow­er Khurram Dastagir said that three thousand three hundred megawatts of electricity is being produced from Thar Coal proj­ect. He said four of the Thar Coal projects which faced criminal delay during the previous gov­ernment have been completed over the last eleven months.

The Minister said Thar Coal projects are a manifestation of cooperation between the feder­al and provincial government of Sindh. Minister for Poverty Alle­viation and Social Safety, Shazia Marri has said that the govern­ment is working to provide re­lief to the poor people.

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