Executive on the warpath with judiciary – 13 Apr 2023

Ruling coalition terms bench order an attack on federation; vows to resist ‘judicial injustice’

In open defiance of the apex court, the ruling coalition on Thursday launched a multipronged blitz on an eight-member larger bench that ruled that the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill would not be implemented or enforced until further notice.

In a strongly-worded statement, the coalition parties termed the order “the most blatant and serious example of conflict of interest”, and “a murder of justice and the reputation of the Supreme Court”, as they announced their intention to resist the “judicial injustice” by any means.

The statement came after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held a meeting with former president Asif Ali Zardari and Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

They held a consultation on the recent decision of the Supreme Court on the elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and discussed in detail the prevailing political situation in the country, according to an official announcement.

Earlier, the federal capital witnessed another day of hectic political and judicial activity as the apex court bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, took up three petitions that challenge the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill for hearing.

After the hearing, the bench said in its order that the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, will not have any effect, nor will it be implemented or enforced in any manner until further notice.

The coalition rejected the order, saying that the decision would go down as a “dark chapter” in judicial history. It added that the order had been passed on the basis of mere guesswork, which was not only against the legal procedure but also against logic.

According to the statement, it was for the first time in history that a law, which had neither been made nor implemented, had been prevented from becoming the law by “a controversial and one-sided” bench.

“This is the most blatant and serious example of conflict of interest,” read the statement. “This is a murder of justice and the reputation of the Supreme Court. It isn’t a decision but a ‘one-man show’ that will go down as a dark chapter in judicial history.”

The parties in the federal government also said that the apex court’s order was contrary to the Constitution and undermined the authority of parliament. “It is an attack on the Federation of Pakistan.”

According to the statement, the order also showed a lack of confidence in the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court who were included in the would-be three-member committee to decide about initiating suo motu proceedings and forming benches.

The government vowed to protect and defend parliament and its constitutional authority. The statement said that the coalition government would strongly resist the “judicial injustice”.

The ruling coalition further said that it would strive to bring justice in the justice system and formulate a plan for the future with a consultation so that the country and the nation could be freed from the crisis and the protection of national interests.

Furthermore, the statement said, the reservations of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and the provincial bar councils were also proved correct. It hoped the lawyers’ community would take notice of the “serious mockery of the Constitution, law and justice” and will raise their voices for upholding the principles of justice and fairness.

In a separate statement before the eight-judge bench’s order, the ruling coalition termed the petitions against the bill “premature” and labelled the bench as “controversial” and “unacceptable”, and demanded the dissolution of the bench and the formation of the full court.

Later in the day, a resolution was passed in the National Assembly, expressing no trust in the larger bench, while several ministers lashed out at the hearing of the petitions in their news conferences.

Speaking at a presser, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar emphasised that a collective wisdom approach was essential for the decision-making process and urged the chief justice to dissolve the larger bench.

He stressed that the parties in the ruling coalition, bar councils from across the country and the legal fraternity had repeatedly asked Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial to form the full court bench to hear the case.

“A selective bench has been formed,” Tarar told reporters while sitting alongside Adviser to Prime Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Kamran Murtaza of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Mian Iftikhar Hussain of the Awami National Party (ANP), Syed Aminul Haque of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Senator Tahir Bizenjo of the Balochistan National Party (BNP).

He said that two senior judges of the apex court had not been included in the bench. “There is a lack of representation from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan among the judges on the bench.”

The minister was of the view that a conflict of interest existed as the case involved the question of the chief justice using his own powers. He claimed that all the rules of the apex court prohibited the chief justice from leading the bench.

PPP’s Qamar Zaman Kaira said nobody could prevent parliament from using its authority and the incumbent government would not compromise or accept it. “Do you want to prevent parliament from using its authority? We will not accept it.”

Meanwhile, the National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling for the dissolution of the eight-judge larger bench. The resolution was moved by PPP MNA Agha Rafiullah.

The resolution accused the top court of making “unfair decisions”, condemning the handling of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill. It expressed concern over the non-inclusion of senior judges in the larger bench.

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