The recent Supreme Court judgment on Practice and Procedure Act has not only accepted the legislative competence of Parliament for the legislation made under Article 191 of the Constitution for Supreme Court’s internal procedures but also held judgment that the Practice and Procedure Act does not, in any way, violate the Constitution, undercut the Supreme Court’s authority, compromise the judiciary’s independence, or do any of these things; rather, it serves to strengthen the Judiciary, increase its independence, and ensure the enforcement of Fundamental Rights. These conclusions of the Supreme Court would establish new guidelines for the Supreme Court going forward with reference to the interpretation of the law and its relation with Parliament.

The current ruling will usher in a new era of Pakistani justice while also enabling appeals under article 184(3) of the Constitution, and the first time the incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan has not only surrendered his powers and functions but believed in collective wisdom through an institutional framework which must be appreciated, and the same should be applied and considered for our High Courts as well. This judgment will also enable litigants to resolve their cases at the Supreme Court sooner because the Practice and Procedure Act of 2023 stipulates that applications for causes, appeals, or other matters that allege urgency or request interim relief must be scheduled for hearings within 14 days of the application’s filing.

The current ruling will usher in a new era of Pakistani justice while also enabling appeals under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

The Practice and Procedure Bill of 2023 was approved and passed by the National Assembly and Senate on March 29 and 30, 2023, respectively. The President sent the bill back for reconsideration without signing it under Article 75 of the Constitution, but on April 10, 2023, the Joint Session of Parliament again approved and passed the bill as per constitutional requirements and resubmitted it to the President. However, on April 13 the Supreme Court eight-member’s bench suspended its operation and the matter kept pending till the incumbent Chief Justice assumed the charge. Accordingly, the matter for the final fate of the Practice and Procedure Act was then scheduled before a full court presided over by the current Chief Justice and the same proceedings were telecasted live for the first time in the judicial history of the Supreme Court, which is another good sign to make the transparency for Supreme Court proceedings in future as well.

The Practice and Procedure Act comprises only eight sections and suggests many good things which include that every case, appeal, or matter before the Supreme Court be considered and decided by a bench made up of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and two senior judges, in that order. Additionally, it states that any matter involving the exercise of original jurisdiction under paragraph (3) of Article 184 of the Constitution must first be brought before the committee for review. If the committee determines that the matter involves the enforcement of one or more fundamental rights, it must then establish a bench consisting of at least three judges of the Supreme Court, which may also include committee members and that an appeal be filed within 30 days of the larger bench of the Supreme Court receiving jurisdiction’s final order, and that the hearing date for such an appeal is set within a window of no more than 14 days. Additionally, it gives a party the freedom to select the attorney of its choosing when submitting a review application. Through this legislation, the Chief Justice’s power is intended to assist in the effective administration of the court’s business, bench composition, and case scheduling.

Through the present judgment, the Supreme Court has recognized certain constitutional and legal principles in broader aspects that the Parliament has the right to legislate matters pertaining to the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court under Article 191 of the Constitution, the legislation does not violation of fundamental rights, the Constitution does not grant to the Chief Justice power to decide cases unilaterally and arbitrarily, the Chief Justice cannot substitute his wisdom with that of the Constitution nor can the Chief Justice’s opinion prevail over that of the Judges of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also dispelled and elaborated the term that Master of the Roster? is not mentioned in the Constitution, in any law or even in the Rules, and let alone stating therein that the Chief Justice, is the Master of the Roster and empowered to act completely in his discretion which is a very good sign for collective wisdom.

The Supreme Court has also acknowledged that the current legislation has also improved access to justice, increased transparency, improved the effectiveness of the realization of fundamental rights, and strengthened the office of the Chief Justice by maintaining continuity when consultations with the two most senior judges occur.

In summary, the current ruling and its findings presided over by the incumbent Chief Justice will significantly affect how the Supreme Court operates going forward, particularly with regard to the Chief Justice’s office regarding the constitution of benches and the fixation of cases. Support for the proposal by accepting legislative competence would also give rise to a structure that would control and lessen criticism of the Supreme Court’s bench makeup, as well as greatly ease the process of resolving early fixation of cases in the SC. A long-awaited demand of bar associations and political parties, the appellate forum included in the new legislation and approved by the Supreme Court will address numerous legal complications pertaining to the proceedings started under Article 184(3) of the Constitution through an intra-court appeal in the Supreme Court.

The writer is a practicing lawyer at Supreme Court and has served as Chairman, Federal Excise & Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal and Senior Advisor Federal Ombudsman. He can be reached at: hafizahsaan47@gmail.com

QOSHE - Supreme Court Judgment on Practice and Procedure Act - Hafiz Ahsaan Ahmad Khokhar
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Supreme Court Judgment on Practice and Procedure Act

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29.12.2023

The recent Supreme Court judgment on Practice and Procedure Act has not only accepted the legislative competence of Parliament for the legislation made under Article 191 of the Constitution for Supreme Court’s internal procedures but also held judgment that the Practice and Procedure Act does not, in any way, violate the Constitution, undercut the Supreme Court’s authority, compromise the judiciary’s independence, or do any of these things; rather, it serves to strengthen the Judiciary, increase its independence, and ensure the enforcement of Fundamental Rights. These conclusions of the Supreme Court would establish new guidelines for the Supreme Court going forward with reference to the interpretation of the law and its relation with Parliament.

The current ruling will usher in a new era of Pakistani justice while also enabling appeals under article 184(3) of the Constitution, and the first time the incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan has not only surrendered his powers and functions but believed in collective wisdom through an institutional framework which must be appreciated, and the same should be applied and considered for our High Courts as well. This judgment will also enable litigants to resolve their cases at the Supreme Court sooner because the Practice and Procedure Act of 2023 stipulates that applications for causes, appeals, or other matters that allege urgency or request interim relief must be scheduled for hearings within 14 days of the application’s filing.

The current ruling will usher in a new........

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