The parliament’s intentions were good, said Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa on Monday as the top court resumed hearing pleas challenging the Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Act 2023.
The CJP was responding to arguments made by petitioners’ counsels reasoning that the parliament should not have legislated upon the apex court’s rules.
The parliament should not be hampered from doing good just because it lacks the two-third majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment, he remarked, at another point during the hearing.
Review petitions filed against the law curtailing CJP’s powers are being heard before a full court. The apex court aimed to conclude the case today, on the third day of proceedings, after hearing all parties.
However, the court adjourned the hearing for further arguements from counsels of all parties till 11:30am on Tuesday (tomorrow).
Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, the full bench comprises Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Mandokhail, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed and Justice Musarrat Hilali.
Last week, during the second full court hearing of the pleas, the CJP had stressed the need to give due respect to parliament, warning that a failure to do so could result in the country being governed not by its Constitution but by the verdicts delivered by judges.
The chief justice remarked that the Practice and Procedure Act limits the powers of the chief justice on theh one hand but, on the other, divides these powers among two other judges.
Chief Justice Isa pointed out that the law would also apply to future chief justices and judges.
At the last hearing, CJP Isa remarked that, “The [judges] forget the oath when martial law is imposed, but remember it as soon as the parliament does something.” He proceeded to point out that there hung many pictures of judges in this courtroom who forgot their oaths when martial law was imposed.
The chief justice recalled that the apex court upheld martial laws on several occasions, adding that the judges violated their oath and allowed the Constitution to be interfered with.
In their arguments, the lawyers, who had challenged the act, also admitted that Article 184(3) – which pertains to the suo motu powers of the apex court – had been misused and overused in the past.
The CJP further questioned that if one day the court deemed a decision to be correct, and wrong the next day, “What will you say then? Is the Supreme Court the king of the jungle”?
In this manner, he continued, the country will not be governed by a constitution, rather by laws shaped by the decisions of the judges.
Emphasising on understanding the reality, instead of drumming up assumptions, the chief justice observed that admitting a mistake was necessary for rectification.
He pointed out that the SC was still the central authority in this act as it did not speak of transferring the powers to anyone outside this building.
At the third hearing today (Monday) Justice Minallah asked if the parliament could not intervene when the apex court was violating fundamental rights by excersiding jurisdiction of public interest under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan.
Justice Mandokhail observed that the SC exercised power under Article 184 (3) in violation of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, CJP Isa noted that the intent of parliament was good. He asked SCBA President Abid Zuberi as to how power under Article 184 (3) had been used in the past. How was the SC Human Rights cell working in the past, he asked.
Zuberi conceded that powers under Article 184 (3) were misused but, he observed, the parliament was not the forum to correct the SC’s mistakes.
During the hearing, Justice Ahsan noted that the Constitution had given a scheme regarding the separation of powers. “If we open the door for the parliment to infere in every matter related to the SC then there is no end to it. There will be good or bad legislation in the future,” he added.
Commenting on the Act in question, Justice Akhtar asked whether this was an indirect constitutional amendment.
“We should keep in mind the history of the country,” observed the CJP. “Let’s not crumple the parliament,” he said.
Meanwhile, Justice Naqvi wondered why the parliament did not make such a law for the high courts or the Federal Shariat Court.
To this, Justice Ahsan replied that the Lahore High Court had prevented the parliament from making rules related to it. He asked how could the parliament displace rules made by the court itself. He observed that Article 191 was not about jurisdictional conferring power.
The question here is about legislative competence, he remarked, adding that the present law might be very good.
Whereas, Justice Akhtar questioned whether this law was an assault on the soul of the Constitution.
Dar credits his policies for decline in dollar
Former finance minister and Leader of the House in Senate Ishaq Dar on Monday said that the international financial institutions considered him an enemy of rupee devaluation, stressing the depreciation in the dollar value today was because of his policies.
During a debate on a motion moved by Senator Kamran Murtaza to discuss the rise in inflation and devaluation of the rupee, Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said that the rupee’s value had improved against the dollar because of the administrative measures adopted by the caretaker government.
The minister told the house that the Pakistani currency would further stabilise after the release of the second tranche of $700 million by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He added that the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) was also introducing structural reforms, especially in the currency exchange companies.
Earlier, Dar termed depreciation of the rupee mother of all economic evils.
“There are characters, who cause losses to the country for their own benefit,” he said. He recalled that in 1999, one day the dollar soared to Rs69 but after a crackdown, it came down to Rs52.
Dar said that the rupee remained stable for four years from 2014.
“The central bank used to intervene to some extent, but the intervention increased to reduce the dollar value during the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government,” he added.
“I am considered an enemy of the rupee devaluation by the financial institutions but see what happened when the PTI government left the dollar unfettered on the advice of those financial institutions. How much our debt has increased,” he asked.
Dar stressed that the term of previous coalition government was not enough to fix the economy. “Depreciation destroys the economy. We should come together to find a solution to the devaluation of the rupee,” he said.
Wheat in ample supply, minister confirms
A caretaker federal minister on Monday assured the upper house of parliament that Pakistan currently has ample wheat stocks and that the government will take concrete measures to address any flour shortage due to supply chain problems.
“There is no shortage of wheat in the country,” Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Information Murtaza Solangi said in response to a motion moved in the Senate by Sania Nishtar of the PTI under Rule 218.
The minister said Pakistan has over seven million (7,213,884) metric tons of wheat, with an additional imported stock of 10,33,845 metric tons.
“Public wheat stock comprises 39,24,367 metric tons in Punjab, 8,17,394 metric tons in Sindh, 2,15,082 metric tons in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), and 89,354 metric tons in Balochistan.
“The Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation Ltd (Passco) accounts for 17,18,177 metric tons. Private wheat stock comprises 3,37,270 metric tons in Punjab, 93,165 metric tons in Sindh, 14,918 metric tons in the K-P, and 4,157 metric tons in Balochistan,” he added.
He said the support price for provinces differed, being Rs4,600 in Punjab and Rs4,700 in Sindh.
In her motion, Senator Nishtar had focused on addressing gaps in the wheat supply chain that may lead to flour shortage. She had pointed out the specific lacuna in the wheat policy, citing the conversion of green bags to white bags at the retail level. She also hinted at smuggling as a factor, contributing towards wheat shortages, in addition to the creation of systematic artificial shortages and hoarding.
In discussions on the motion, Senator Dilawar Khan of the PML-N suggested that Pakistan should focus on exporting wheat instead of importing this essential commodity. He further advocated for providing concessions to the agriculture sector to boost farming.
He said wheat procured in the past was not even suitable for animals’ consumption. He said the method of distributing wheat in the country is flawed. “Fertilizer is being sold in black markets too. The government should force dealers to maintain records of landowners,” he added.
Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri of the JUI-F highlighted Balochistan’s agricultural challenges, emphasizing a lack of canal systems. He expressed concern about the removal of subsidies on electricity for poor farmers of the province.
Senators Dr Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur of the PTI and Rukhsana Zuberi of the PPP stressed the need for a concrete solution to address the issue.
Senator Dr Zarqa said dealers are availing subsidies meant for farmers.
“Pakistan’s black economy is thriving more than the white one. There is a need for measures that increase the country’s income instead of benefiting corrupt individuals. Actions should be taken to break the backbone of the black economy,” she said.
The minister acknowledged the collective wisdom of the Senate, which, he said, ultimately provides guidance to the government. He said that discussions on the topic would be tabled before the federal cabinet and the prime minister for consideration.
WITH INPUT FROM APP
SHC’s stay on executive committee orders irks PBC
Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman Haroonur Rasheed has taken strong exception over the Sindh High Court to grant stay on its executive committee orders, demanding of the chief justice of Pakistan to look into the matter and take appropriate action in this regard.
In a statement issued on Monday, the PBC vice chairman said, “It is often observed that Orders of Executive Committee of the Pakistan Bar Council which are assailed by the aggrieved person(s) before the Hon’ble High Court of Sindh through civil suit are being taken up by the High Court of Sindh in the Court or in Chamber and injunctive Order has been passed which are not entertainable in the eye of law due to lack of jurisdiction.”
Rasheed said, “The High Court of Sindh has no jurisdiction to set aside any Order assailed which is passed by the Pakistan Bar Council or its Executive Committee at Islamabad the proper forum for that is Courts of ICT, so any order passed by the High Court of Sindh that would be non-existing and nullity in the eye of law as one rather sitting in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab or Balochistan cannot set over the territorial jurisdiction and the High Court of Sindh should not pass injunctive Orders on the matters decided by the Pakistan Bar Council at Islamabad just to please their blue eyed person(s), which amount to undue interference in smooth functioning of a statutory body having its office in Islamabad.”
The statement added, “The tendency of such like issues creates serious doubts upon credibility of those decisions which have been passed without jurisdiction.”
Rasheed said that no high court of any province had jurisdiction, especially the SHC, to create hindrance in affairs of the regulatory body of lawyers who had the mandate under Section 13(2) of the Legal Practitioners & Bar Councils Act, 1973, to decide matters of Provincial/Islamabad Bar Councils and all bar associations of the country, which were challenged before it.
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