Ruling coalition rejects the formation of controversial 8 member SC bench

 Ruling coalition vowed to resist attempts to take away parliament's authority and to interfere in its constitutional domain

The ruling coalition today rejected the formation of an eight-member "controversial" bench of the Supreme Court that will take up a set of petitions challenging the bill clipping the chief justice's powers. The hard-hitting response to the constitution of the bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial came just hours before the hearing was set to start.

First the ruling coalition issued a strongly worded  statement ahead of the SC hearing, the ruling coalition vowed to resist attempts to take away parliament's authority and to interfere in its constitutional domain and later held a press conference.

The bench will take up four petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 amidst a boycott by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) of court proceedings in protest “against fixation of pleas in haste”.

In its statement today, the ruling alliance termed the development "unprecedented" as the pleas were admitted even before the completion of the legislative process. It said that this is equivalent to sabotaging the credibility of the country’s highest court, making the constitutional process of justice “meaningless”.

 “This bench itself is a testament to the division of the SC, which once again supports the earlier stated position of the ruling parties," the statement read, adding that the ruling alliance considers this as an “attack” on the parliament and its authority.

Highlighting the loopholes in the formation of the “controversial” bench which does not include any of the judges who raised questions on the powers of the CJP, the coalition parties lamented the non-inclusion of judges from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The statement mentioned that the top court judges Justice Isa and Justice Khan had in their earlier judgments openly expressed their objection to the “one-man show”, biased and dictatorial behaviour, and the formation of special benches.

“With the formation of the eight-member controversial bench, the facts stated in the judgments of these honourable judges have become clearer,” the statement read.

“The constitution of the controversial bench in haste and fixing the bill for hearing, apart from the will and intent, also clearly expresses the decision to come which is sad and tantamount to murder of justice,” the ruling alliance maintained.

Law minister Azam Nazir Tarar reiterated that bill can be challenged by the citizens once its legislation, adding that the entire situation is “alarming” as the petitions against the "pre-mature" bill is being heard by a "selective bench".

He said that the bench does not comprise two senior-most judges and those placed on number five, seven, and eight according to the list of seniority are not part of the bench.

The bench is constituted on a "pick and choose" basis, the law minister said, adding that there is a conflict of interest as the bill was passed against the CJP and he himself was leading the bench.

He clarified the bill was “pre-mature” because it has not yet become an Act as the president returned the bill without signing it; however, it was fixed for hearing in a haste and a bench was formed.

Tarar said that all the bar councils unanimously rejected the formation of the bench. "Pakistan Bar Council, Sindh Bar Council, Balochistan Bar Council, Punjab Bar Council, Islamabad Capital Territory Bar Council and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council boycotted the eight-member bench constituted to hear the pleas against the pre-mature bill," he added.

He said that the perception that a rift has been created between the parliament and the judiciary it is not because of the former. "The parliament has the right as per the law and constitution to legislate for the interest of the people and to make the institutions strong," he added.


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