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Pak Senate passes bill to curtail Chief Justice's suo moto powers

The bill was moved in the Senate on Thursday after the Pakistan National Assembly approved the bill on March 29.

Pak Senate passes bill to curtail Chief Justices suo moto powers
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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Senate on Thursday approved the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 that would curb the Chief Justice of Pakistan's discretionary powers to take suo moto notice, Geo News reported. The bill was moved in the Senate on Thursday a day after it was approved by the Pakistan National Assembly. At least 60 lawmakers approved the bill while 19 senators voted against it.

Before the final vote on the bill, a motion was presented to send the bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice for further debate, Geo News reported. However, it was rejected. The motion for the urgent approval of the bill was then presented which was accepted by most of the lawmakers. Pakistan's Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar said that the proposed law is providing the right to appeal in suo moto cases and to appoint a different lawyer in the appeals. Meanwhile, the leader of the Opposition Shahzad Waseem criticized the bill saying that the government is not able to ensure a smooth distribution of wheat and planning to make rules for the Supreme Court.

"Making rules for the Supreme Court is an indirect attack (on the judiciary. You are trying to create division in the Supreme Court," Shahzad Waseem said as per the Geo News report. He further said that the bill did not talk about the right of appeal before and later in the standing committee the right to appeal was given in previous cases. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Ali Zafar said that he had two objections to the bill. He said, "Only constitutional amendment can be made in 184/3. If you pass laws this way then it will be struck down within 15 days," as per the news report. He stressed that the right to appeal can only be given through the Constitution.

Ali Zafar said that Pakistan Supreme Court will have to hear thousands of cases again by opening past cases. He pointed out that there is a divide among the lawyers on this bill. He raised questions over the timing of the bill as an election suo motu was ongoing in the Supreme Court. On March 29, Pakistan National Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure), Bill 2023, curtailing the powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo moto notice in an individual capacity. The Express Tribune reported.

The bill, presented by Federal Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, was passed hours after the Standing Committee on Law and Justice approved the cabinet's proposed amendments. The law minister thanked the members of the NA Standing Committee on Law and Justice for their input on the bill. "This bill was an old demand of the bar councils which said that indiscriminate use of 184(3) should be stopped," he added.

Pakistan's National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf presided over the session where the report of the standing committee on the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill was presented in the House by PML-N member of the National Assembly Bashir Mehmood Virk. The bill suggested that a committee comprising three senior-most judges of the Supreme Court would decide on the suo moto notice and there would be a right to file an appeal within 30 days of the suo moto decision.

According to the bill, the appeal has to be fixed for hearing within 14 days of filing and after taking a suo moto notice. The hearing will be conducted by a three-member bench and the decision of the majority in this regard will be acceptable.

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