SC Bill: Notices issued to Federation, PM, President, Bar councils

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In response to petitions filed against a measure that would limit the Chief Justice’s authority, the Supreme Court on Thursday issued notices to the federation, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, President Arif Alvi, bar councils, and other parties.

The Supreme Court’s eight-member bench heard the petitions against the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 as the country’s leading bar association boycotted court proceedings and criticized the coalition parties.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial preside over the bench, which also included Justices Ijaz ul Ahsan, Munib Akhtar, Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Ayesha Malik, Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Shahid Waheed. None of the judges who questioned the CJP’s authority have been appointed to the bench.

Imtiaz Siddiqui, the petitioner’s attorney, stated at the beginning of the hearing that the matter was crucial given the current circumstances. “The federal government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) are not willing to hold elections, which is why the court had to take suo motu notice,” added Siddiqui.

The attorney said that once the court issued orders to execute the Constitution, issues arose and the judges and judiciary came under fire. He said that the planned legislation will have an impact on the independence of the court and stated that “the government’s ministers and members of parliament are responsible for this.”

The ruling coalition parties criticized the decision to form a bench before the legislative process was finished and referred to it as an attack on parliament in a joint statement released before the hearing.

Prior to this, vice chairs of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Haroon ur Rashid and Hassan Raza Pasha, claimed that the Chief Justice hastily assembled the bench to hear the applications. They said that on Thursday, the legal profession will boycott court hearings all around the nation.

After being returned by President Dr. Arif Alvi earlier this week, a joint session of parliament enacted the law restricting the CJP’s authority.