Ruling coalition demands dissolution of bench hearing petitions on SC bill

Ruling coalition demands dissolution of bench hearing petitions on SC bill

Islamabad (Web Desk): The ruling coalition on Thursday rejected the formation of an 8 member “controversial” bench to hear petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 that aims to curtail the chief justice's powers, including those related to suo motu and formation of benches.

In a joint statement, the ruling parties added that “such a move has never been seen before in the history of Pakistan and the court”.

They termed the development “unprecedented” as the pleas were admitted even before the completion of the legislative process.

The move is tantamount to destroying the credibility of the highest court of the country and making the constitutional process of justice meaningless, the statement said.

“This bench itself is a testament to the division of the SC, which once again supports the earlier stated position of the ruling parties," the statement read, adding that the ruling alliance considers this as an “attack” on the parliament and its authority.

The ruling coalition also said that the honourable judges of the apex court themselves have openly expressed their objections to the “one-man-show”, biased and dictatorial behaviour and the formation of special benches in their decisions.

"Pakistan is a federation and ignoring this fact and not adding any judge from the two smaller provinces, ie Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, to the bench is also “unfortunate”, the statement added.

The ruling coalition said that “every attempt to take away the authority of the Parliament and interfere in its constitutional scope will be strongly resisted, there will be no compromise on the authority of the Parliament in the light of the Constitution of Pakistan”.

Later, addressing a joint presser along with representatives of all the coalition partners in the government in Islamabad, Minister for Law Azam Nazeer Tarar said constituting the bench even when the President has not signed the bill and legislation is underway in the parliament is not acceptable at all.

He said right of legislation which rests with the parliament will not be allowed to be compromised at all. He said all the coalition parties outrightly reject this bench.

The minister again demanded constituting full court to hear the case so that collective wisdom should prevail.

He said the coalition parties, bar councils from across the country and legal fraternity have repeatedly demanded to form a full court bench to hear the case.

Speaking on this occasion, Pakistan Peoples Party, (PPP) leader and Advisor to Prime Minister on Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira said that constituting the bench in haste is tantamount to stop the parliament from exercising its right of legislation, which is not acceptable at all.

He said confrontation among institutions is pushing the country towards a dangerous and complicated situation.

Senator Kamran Murtaza of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), rejecting the composition of the bench, said constituting eight-member bench is tantamount to usurp the right of appeal.

He said inclusion of junior judges in the bench is also not appropriate which will harm the sanctity and prestige of the Supreme Court.

The JUI-F leader said that there should be some criteria for fixation of the cases. He said we outrightly reject formation of this bench.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain of Awami National Party (ANP) said a well-organised campaign is underway against the parliament.

He said the objective of Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill, 2023 is to ensure balance in the power of the judges.

The ANP leader said that Parliament is supreme, and its supremacy will have to be accepted.
"We ousted the previous government through adopting a constitutional procedure" Mian Iftikhar said, adding that all the institution should work while remaining within their constitutional domain.

He demanded of the CJP to review formation of the bench for the sake of the country, parliament and the judiciary.

In his remarks Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Syed Amin Ul Haque also expressed solidarity with the government and other coalition partners.

"Our party has always struggled for supremacy of parliament, impartial judiciary and democratic norms,". Amin Ul Haque said, urging that a full court should be formed to hear such an important case.

Senator Tahir Bizinjo of National Party said formation of a selected bench may prove to be dangerous for the country. He asked the CJP to ensure representation of small federating units in the bench.

Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) leader and Minister of State for Power Hashim Notezai said Pakistan is already facing economic crisis and cannot afford more crises.

He also urged the CJP to form a full court with representation of all the federating units to decide the matter.

Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKAMP) leader Shafiq Tareen said controversial bench is creating impression of confrontation among the institutions. He said creating hurdles in the way of legislation on pre mature stage is not acceptable.

Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) leader and Minister for Defence Production Israr Tareen said purpose of our politics is supremacy of democratic system and our party will continue its efforts for upholding the constitution.

The statement by the coalition parties comes a day after the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial formed an eight-member larger bench to hear the petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 that aims to curtail the chief justice's powers, including those related to suo motu and formation of benches.

Besides the CJP himself, the bench comprises Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed.

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

Last week President Dr Arif Alvi had returned the bill for reconsideration to the Parliament as per the provisions of Article 75 of the Constitution.