Verdict reserved on petitions challenging SC judgments review law

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday reserved the verdict on petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023 after arguments were completed from both sides.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar heard the petitions challenging the vires of the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023.

Ghulam Mohiuddin, Zaman Khan Vardak and the Jurists Foundation, through its CEO Riaz Hanif Rahi, had challenged the vires of the Act.

During today’s hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawyer Ali Zafar concluded their arguments, after which the top court reserved the verdict.

“We will announce the verdict after discussing it, CJP Bandial said.

Earlier, while starting his arguments, AGP Mansoor defended the right to appeal cases under Article 184-3 and said such cases had a separate jurisdiction for review.

At this, CJP Bandial remarked that the government could legislate, but it does not seem right to give the right of appeal in revision.

“The right to appeal in Article 184/3 cases should be decided very thoughtfully. In India too, there is no right of direct appeal in Article 184/3 cases,” he remarked.

The AGP maintained that the Constitution did not limit the jurisdiction of revision.

Meanwhile, CJP Bandial agreed that the legislature could expand the review jurisdiction.

“The government has changed the review appeal for which concrete reasons must be given. Before drafting legislation, one must look at the facts carefully.”

The attorney general mentioned that he informed the court at the previous hearing that the jurisdiction of the court has now been expanded.

During the hearing, the AGP requested the court to dismiss the petitions against the Supreme Court Review Act.

When asked about the requirements for challenging a law, the AGP said that the petitioners could have challenged the legislation in the High Court under Article 199.

“Current legislation will not affect justice delivery, review decisions,” he said while concluding his arguments.

Meanwhile, CJP Bandial observed that some errors must be pointed out in order to review the decision of the main case.

“Legislation must be done but do not leave any ambiguity,” he remarked, adding that it did not seem right to give the right of appeal in review.

While starting his arguments, PTI lawyer Ali Zafar maintained that a change in the apex’s powers could not be made through just legislation.

A constitutional amendment is necessary to change the powers of the Supreme Court, he said, adding that there were many apex court decisions related to judicial powers.

He said that Article 187 gives the SC a wide range of authority to deliver complete justice.

The lawyer contended that a case could not be heard again in the case of the Constitution of a larger bench.

Later, the CJP directed all the lawyers to submit their arguments containing the related references in writing.

Review law

The petitioner, in his plea against the Review of Judgments and Orders Act 2023, requested the court to “set aside [the Act] as unconstitutional being Ultra Vires, void ab-initio and issued without jurisdiction [and] of no legal effect.”

The petition filed by Rahi made the government a respondent through the Ministry of Law and Justice Secretary and Senate Secretariat Secretary Muhammad Qasim Samad Khan.

Citing Articles 188 and 191 of the Constitution, it contended that the law is “unconstitutional” and has been passed by the government for “its personal advantage to avoid the regime of present CJP without taking into consideration the public interest”.

Rahi further submitted that the respondents had no jurisdiction to go beyond their constitutional limits under “extraneous considerations and ulterior motives”.

The law came into effect on May 5, 2023.

Referring to the Act, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar alluded to Article 188 of the Constitution and said it [the law] empowers the SC subject to the provision of any Act of Majlis-e-Shoora and any rules made by the top court, to review any judgment pronounced or any order made by it. He said the latest legislation is procedural in nature.

The law minister said the bill was formulated under the spirit of Article 188 of the Constitution.