Islamabad: National Assembly of Pakistan on Wednesday has passed the The Supreme Court Practice and Procedure bill 2023, which reduces the powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan to form benches and take suo motu notices.
This move comes six months before Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the current Chief Justice, retires on September 16, and Justice Qazi Faez Isa takes over the position on September 17.
Suo motu is a Latin term that means the Chief Justice of Pakistan could take up any case of their choice. The bill was passed by a simple majority after the Pakistan People’s Party withdrew its proposed amendments.
The bill was introduced and approved by the cabinet on Tuesday and sent for further deliberation to a standing committee. T
he Law Minister, Azam Tarrar, clarified in the assembly that changes such as those proposed in this bill do not require a constitutional amendment, as Article 191 of the constitution gives the parliament the right to amend rules and procedures.
The Supreme Court is currently operating under rules made in 1980 under the constitution.
Salient features of the bill
- Every cause, appeal or matter before the Supreme Court shall be heard and disposed of via a bench constituted by a committee comprising the Chief Justice of Pakistan and two senior-most judges in order of seniority.
- Any matter invoking exercise of original jurisdiction under Clause 3 of Article 184 of the Constitution shall be first placed before the committee for examination. If the committee is of the view that a question of public importance with reference to enforcement of any of the fundamental rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II of the Constitution is involved, it shall constitute a bench comprising not less than three judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
- Intra-court appeal is provided in Section 4 and it shall lie within 30 days from the final order of a bench of the Supreme Court that exercises jurisdiction under Clause 3 to a larger bench of the Supreme Court. Such appeal shall be fixed for hearing within a period of not exceeding 14 days.
- The right to appoint counsel of choice is granted.
- Application for fixation of urgent matters is allowed.