First ever live telecast at SC, full court hears petition against Practice and Procedure Act


ISLAMABAD: In a significant legal development, Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa is presiding over a full court bench, marking the first time in the country’s history that a case’s proceedings are being live telecast.

This bench is currently hearing a series of review petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023, a piece of legislation introduced by the previous PDM government. The Act, in essence, modifies the powers of the Chief Justice, particularly in matters of taking suo motu actions and constituting benches to address cases.

The full court consists of 15 members, with Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa at the helm. Other notable members include Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed, and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

Prior to this hearing, Chief Justice Qazi Isa had approved the formation of a full court to consider appeals against the SC Practice and Procedure Act. The federal government, however, has urged the Supreme Court to dismiss these petitions, arguing that they are inadmissible and that the Act falls within Parliament’s legislative authority under Article 191 of the Constitution. The government asserts that the Act doesn’t undermine the judiciary’s independence nor strip the Supreme Court of any of its powers.

During the proceedings, arguments were presented, with questions raised about the Act’s implications. Some argued that it might affect the right to appeal, as outlined in Section 5 of the Act. Others questioned whether Parliament had the authority to regulate the Supreme Court’s powers without a constitutional amendment. The debate also touched upon the distinction between judicial and administrative authority and the scope of Article 184(3) regarding public interest cases and fundamental rights enforcement.

Despite references to past court judgments, Chief Justice Qazi Isa emphasized that the primary focus should be on constitutional questions. He cited Article 189, which specifies that Supreme Court decisions are binding on all other courts in Pakistan, emphasizing the term “all other courts” as distinct from the Supreme Court itself. Additionally, Justice Athar Minallah argued that the Act merely diluted the Chief Justice’s discretionary powers and strengthened institutional independence while providing a right of appeal.

Advocate Imtiaz Rashid Siddiqui contended that the entire Act was unconstitutional, asserting that Parliament lacked the authority to legislate in this area. However, he was asked to clarify whether Parliament had any legislative power on this matter and whether Supreme Court rules held a higher or lower status than parliamentary legislation.

It’s worth noting that an eight-member bench previously halted the implementation of the Practice and Procedure Act on April 13. The Act primarily redefined the Chief Justice’s powers in handling cases of public interest and established a three-member committee to make decisions in case of disagreements. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, while advocating Parliament’s supremacy, had suggested suspending cases under Article 184(3) until a final decision on the Act’s fate.

Ultimately, the hearing revolves around the constitutional questions surrounding the Act and its impact on the judiciary’s independence and powers, making it a landmark case in Pakistan’s legal history.


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