Shehbaz Sharif: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said that “history would not forgive us” if parliament did not enact laws to curtail the powers of the chief justice. His observation came a day after two Supreme Court judges questioned the suo motu powers of the country’s top judge.
Sharif was addressing the joint session of parliament. He spoke in detail about the dissenting judgement by Justices Mansoor Ali Shah and Jamal Khan Mandokhail, who lashed out at the unlimited authority of the Chief Justice to take a suo motu action on any issue and constitute benches of choice to hear different cases.
Elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces
Their judgment was about the case of suo motu notice taken by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial on February 22 about elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
Sharif spoke passionately about the need for new laws to limit the chief justice’s power. He said that if the legislation were not passed, “history would not forgive us”.
The suo motu power is based on the original jurisdiction of the court under Article 184 of the Constitution. However, over the years, its usage has created an impression of partiality on the Chief Justices’ part.
Challenged for the first time
It was openly challenged for the first time by the two judges who were part of a bench that, in its 3-2 majority decision of March 1, directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to consult with President Arif Alvi for polls in Punjab and Governor Ghulam Ali for elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Taking a suo motu action against the delay in elections, Bandial reconstituted the five-member bench. He initially formed a nine-member bench to deal with the issue. However, two of the nine judges differed with the decision to take suo motu notice, while two other judges recused themselves, prompting the Chief Justice to form a new bench.
Justice Shah and Justice Mandokhail also rejected the 3-2 judgment in the suo motu case. They said that it was a 4-3 judgment to reject the maintainability of the case. They also lambasted the Chief Justice’s power to form a bench for important cases.
Using parliament to curtail chief justice’s powers
Prime Minister Sharif’s coalition government is supporting the ECP’s decision to delay the election in the two provinces until October 8. It is also trying curtail the powers of the Chief Justice through parliament.
Sharif also said that the courts were not ready to hold Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan favourably.
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