President Alvi returns bill clipping Chief Justice’s wings

Bill goes beyond competence of Parliament, can be criticized as colorable legislation, says President

Picture source - twitter @PresOfPakistan
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A bill to limit the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s authority and grant the right of appeal in all suo motu cases with retroactive effect was returned to parliament by President Arif Alvi on Saturday. He justified this action by arguing that the proposed legislation falls outside the purview of the legislative body and could be contested as a spurious law.

The President said, “The Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023 goes beyond the competence of the parliament and can be criticized as a colorable legislation.”

The measure, which seeks to deny the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) office the authority to accept suo motu notices in a personal capacity, was approved by the Senate on March 30.

The proposed changes to the Supreme Court’s regulations have ignited a controversy in legal and political circles. Some attorneys have criticized the proposal, while others have said that it is a much-needed reform.

The president provided a thorough response, which he also shared on Twitter, and stated that he believed it was appropriate to return the measure to the House with “the request for reconsideration in order to meet the scrutiny about its validity (if assailed in a court of law)” in line with the Constitution.

Alvi emphasized the significance of taking certain factors into account after “vetting” the law. The Supreme Court is given the authority under Article 191 of the Constitution “to make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the Court,” he said.

The Supreme Court Rules of 1980 have been made and are currently in force, having been fully recognized and ratified by the Constitution itself, the president stated. This suggests that the Constitution itself has approved and ratified these regulations.

He said, “These time-tested Rules have been followed since the year 1980; any alteration to them may amount to interference with the internal operations of the Court, its autonomy, and its independence.” Alvi issued a warning that any effort to change or alter these norms would be interpreted as meddling with the court’s internal operations, which might jeopardize the court’s independence and autonomy.

According to Article 191, the Supreme Court is permitted to issue rules governing the practice and procedure of the court, subject to the Constitution and the law.

He emphasized that, with the exception of interfering with each other’s territories, Articles 67 and 191 are similar to one another and acknowledge each party’s sovereignty and independence. As “envisioned by the founding fathers that in the state of Pakistan independence of judiciary shall be fully secured,” the chief of state said, the Supreme Court is an autonomous institution.