ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court issued a ruling on Wednesday, upholding the constitutional validity of the SC (Practice & Procedure) Act, 2023.
This law mandates the formation of committees of senior judges to constitute benches for handling constitutional matters and suo motu notices. The majority of the court rejected petitions challenging the law.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, while delivering the reserved verdict in a live-streamed session, announced that the SC Practice and Procedure Act 2023 was found to be consistent with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, with a majority vote of 10-5 (with Justices Ahsan, Akhtar, Naqvi, Ayesha, and Shahid Wahid in dissent). Consequently, the petitions against the law were dismissed.
In a separate aspect of the ruling, Chief Justice Isa explained that by a majority vote of 9-6 (with Justices Ahsan, Akhtar, Afridi, Naqvi, Ayesha, and Waheed in dissent), sub-section 1 of Section 5 of the Act, which grants a right of appeal prospectively, was declared to be in accordance with the Constitution, leading to the dismissal of the related petitions.
The SC Practice and Procedure Act 2023, enacted by Parliament in April, stipulates that a three-member bench, consisting of the CJP and the two most senior judges of the Supreme Court, will determine whether to take up a matter suo motu. Previously, this decision was solely under the authority of the CJP. Additionally, the law broadens the Supreme Court’s review jurisdiction, allowing the filing of an appeal within 30 days of a judgment in suo motu cases.
The law had been perceived by the petitioners as an attempt by the government to restrict the powers of the chief justice.
In April, the Supreme Court, led by former Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, halted the implementation of the law pending a decision on the petitions challenging it. This decision was made by an eight-member bench comprising ex-CJP Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha A. Malik, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shahid Waheed.
After taking office on September 19, current CJP Qazi Faez Isa resumed the hearing of the petitions with a full court and ordered the live-streaming of the proceedings. The bench, led by Justice Isa, included Justices Sardar Tariq Masood, Ahsan, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Akhtar, Yahya Afridi, Aminuddin Khan, Naqvi, Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Mazhar, Ayesha, Athar Minallah, Rizvi, Waheed, and Musarrat Hilali.
Today’s judgment follows five previous proceedings on the matter, during which an exchange between judges and counsel hinted at concerns among the judges regarding the functioning of the court.