Landmark ruling

CJ Isa to be long remembered for abdicating his powers on suo motu.

Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa will long be remembered for abdicating his powers on suo motu. Moreover, the passionate manner in which the full court deliberated over an act of parliament that pertained to curtailing the judicial purview and granting the right to appeal over an appellate court decision is unprecedented. The apex court with a majority decision sustained the SC (Practice & Procedure) Act, 2023, a law that envisions the formation of a committee of three senior judges to form benches on cases involving constitutional matters of public importance, and took no qualms in upholding the supremacy of the parliament to legislate even over the prerogative of the lords and superior judiciary.

The ruling upheld a section of the law that envisages the right to appeal in future cases, whereas at the same time it rejected the right to appeal in retrospective cases. The proceedings telecast live for the first time in history drew praise and condemnations, alike, as people were not too happy to see a procedural debate bombarded on the nation by sweeping under the carpet real issues concerning the very fundamentals of a civil society in disarray. It has also kick-started a debate among the jurisprudents over the right to appeal in cases heard under Article 184(3). But the question is who will hear the appeal.

The willingness of the judges to adopt an egalitarian approach vis-à-vis the legislature is appreciated. This landmark decision, however, could be interpreted by parliamentarians as a licence to tame the judiciary. Yet, it will live on as a controversial doctrine in itself. The bottom line is that suo motu powers under Article 184(3) were entrusted in the CJP office as a beacon of hope to take an instant stance, as and when public interests were violated. They are gone now. Now under the new module, hoping that all three senior judges will see through the same prism is oversimplifying the issue. The independence of the judiciary will be up for a test in times to come.

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