KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan’s upper house on Thursday approved a law that limits some key powers of the Supreme Court’s chief justice, state-run Pakistan Television reported.
The Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill 2023 was passed with 60 votes in favor, while the bill was opposed by 19 senators from the main opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and the religiopolitical Jamaat-e-Islami, which called it “unconstitutional.”
The remaining 21 senators were not present. The bill had already been passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Footage aired on local broadcaster Geo News showed the PTI senators carrying placards engraved with anti-bill remarks and raising slogans against the legislation.
The legislation’s most notable provision is the removal of the chief justice’s authority to take a suo moto notice, a legal term used in South Asian countries to refer to actions taken by courts on their own initiative without a request from the parties concerned.
Suo moto notices issued by chief justices have long been a source of contention between the top judiciary and governments, with several bar councils also opposing the controversial power.
The bill also deprives the chief justice of the authority to constitute the Supreme Court of Pakistan benches.
The bill now needs to be signed by President Arif Alvi, who belongs to the PTI, to become law.
According to the fresh legislation, a three-member bench comprising the chief justice and the two most senior judges will decide whether or not to take a suo moto notice. It was previously the sole prerogative of the chief justice.
It also states that every cause, matter, or appeal before the apex court would be heard and disposed of by a bench constituted by a committee made up of the chief justice and the two senior-most judges. It added that the committee’s decisions would be taken by a majority.
The legislation also included the right to file an appeal within 30 days of the judgment in a suo moto case.
It also stated that any case involving constitutional interpretation will not have a bench of fewer than five judges.
The bill allows three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former Premier Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, and several other parliamentarians who have been disqualified by the Supreme Court under suo moto action to appeal their disqualification within 30 days of the law’s enactment.