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The National Assembly unanimously passes a bill to restrict the CJP’s Suo moto powers.

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ISLAMABAD: Wednesday, the National Assembly unanimously passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, which restricts the suo moto powers of the chief justice of Pakistan.

The National Assembly has passed the Lawyers Welfare and Protection Bill 2023, and the session has been adjourned until tomorrow at noon.

The previous day, the federal government not only ruled that the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) could no longer form benches and initiate suo moto proceedings on his own, but also presented the same bill to the National Assembly for approval.

Referring to the order of the day, NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf noted that although the bill regarding the CJP’s powers had to be passed on Tuesday, the sentiment of the house was that the bill should be referred to the law and justice committee for further deliberation.

As the National Assembly session began today, Speaker Ashraf presided over the session during which PML-N MNA Bashir Mehsud Virk presented the report of the standing committee on the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill to the House.

Mohsin Dawar, a representative from North Waziristan, introduced the amendment to the bill, which was supported by federal law minister Azam Nazir Tarar.

Dawar stated that the Nasla Tower in Karachi was also demolished as a result of a suo moto notice, suggesting that victims of Article 184(3) of the Constitution in the past should be given 30 days to file an appeal.

After the Pakistan Peoples Party supported Dawar’s amendment, it was passed.

Recommendations made by the Permanent Committee

Previously, the Standing Committee on Law and Justice unanimously approved the amended bill. The bill proposed that a committee of the three most senior judges of the Supreme Court would decide on the suo motu notice, and that an appeal could be filed within 30 days of the decision.

The bill stipulates that the appeal must be scheduled for hearing within fourteen days of its filing, and after a suo moto notice is taken, the hearing will be conducted by a three-member bench, with the majority decision being acceptable.

After the law’s passage, no Supreme Court or high court decision or other law will be able to affect it.

Under the additional amendments, the right of appeal will also be available for pending cases, and the bench composed of at least five judges will hear constitutional and legal matters.

Tarar stated that the bill was presented to the National Assembly yesterday in an effort to make proceedings more transparent, that Article 184(3)’s lack of an appeal clause violates the Constitution’s fundamental principles, and that there is no provision for an immediate hearing in cases of an urgent nature.

He stated that “Article 184(3) became widely utilised between 2008 and 2010 when a former chief justice began using it suo motu.”

A suo motu case hearing should not be a “one-man show,” according to the minister of justice.

The purpose of the bill is to have a transparent process in the Supreme Court, according to Tarar, who stated that the bill had been forwarded to the committee for consideration and that the NA had ordered that no law that could be challenged be enacted.

Lawmakers opine

Abdul Akbar Chitrali, an MNA from the Jamaat-e-Islami, addressed the National Assembly after the bill was introduced and emphasised the need to strengthen state institutions, stating that Pakistan was facing a number of problems.

“The Supreme Court or the judiciary are not performing their duties, and Supreme Court judges have issued improper suo moto notices,” he added.

Saleh Muhammad, a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), stated that the legislation amounted to imposing restrictions on an independent judiciary.

Instead of passing the bill quickly, he believes that time should have been allotted for discussion.

Raja Riaz, the leader of the opposition, stated that the government and opposition jointly introduced the judicial reform bill, adding that the opposition has thoroughly examined the bill.

“The Judicial Reforms Bill will provide justice for the average citizen, end the one-man show, and bolster the judiciary,” he added.

Senator Sherry Rehman, the federal minister for climate change, stated that the purpose of this bill was to divide the powers of individual judges among senior judges.

“Everyone can hear the dissenting opinions of judges in the courts,” she added.

Defense Minister Khwaja Asif stated, “We have satisfied all legislative requirements; now we must demonstrate our constitutional and legal authority.” The law should have been passed “long ago,” he added.

The previous day, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addressed the National Assembly session, the federal cabinet approved the proposed bill – The Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023, and the bill was introduced in the presence of the prime minister, who returned to the session after chairing the cabinet meeting.

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