SC should admit its past mistakes of endorsing martial laws: CJP

Justice Isa astutely observes when martial law is imposed, the solemn oath taken by judges often fades into oblivion


ISLAMABAD (News desk): During the hearing of the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act case on Tuesday, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Qazi Faez Isa made a compelling remark, highlighting the havoc being wrought by individuals wielding unchecked power.

He astutely observed that when martial law is imposed, the solemn oath taken by judges often fades into oblivion. In contrast, when parliament enacts laws, the judiciary swiftly reacts, holding lawmakers accountable to their oath.

The CJP boldly asserted that the apex court should acknowledge its past mistakes concerning its endorsement of martial laws.

Critics, particularly lawyers, have historically voiced concerns about the top court’s perceived misuse of its jurisdiction under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan.

A full court bench of the Supreme Court is hearing petitions challenging the SC (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023. The bench, headed by CJP Isa and comprising all 15 judges of the Supreme Court, is hearing the pleas.

The highly anticipated case is being broadcast live on state television, as cameras from PTV have been installed inside Courtroom No.1. The hearing commenced at 9:30am today.

The full court bench, led by CJP Isa, included Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha A. Malik, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed, and Justice Musarrat Hilali.

The hearing was adjourned till Monday, October 9.

At the start of today’s hearing, the chief justice said the law affected the CJP and the two senior-most judges of the SC. He added that the law would also apply to future chief justices and senior judges of the apex court.

Elaborating further, Justice Isa stated that he felt that he should not have been part of the bench, however, as the law affects all judges of the apex court, it was decided that a full court will hear the case.

The chief justice said that the court wants to “try to conclude [the case] today”, and added that if lawyers wanted to make additional arguments, they can submit a detailed response.

Advocate Ikram Chaudhry, starting his arguments, read the opening paragraph of the SC (Practice and Procedure) Act and argued that the opening indicated that the law was being enacted for a certain or “specific purpose”.

The chief justice asked Chaudhry whether the law stated the same or was he implying it and cautioned the counsel against putting words in a statute “which don’t exist”. “If this is your impression then say so.”

The lawyer, referring to the provision of appeal under the new Act, said “additions” to Article 183 can only be made with a two-thirds majority in the Parliament and added that Section 8 of the Act had “bulldozed” the concept of the judiciary’s independence.

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