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    Law to Limit Authority of Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Approved by Parliament


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    Pakistan’s parliament has passed a law that curtails the powers of the Supreme Court Chief Justice. The law prevents the Chief Justice from taking suo motu actions and forming panels of judges for cases to be heard. The ruling coalition, led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has been pushing for the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023 to dilute the Chief Justice’s power. The bill was initially passed by both houses of parliament but was sent back by the President, who said it travelled “beyond the competence of parliament.” On April 10, the bill was passed for the second time by a joint sitting of parliament with certain amendments, amid protests by lawmakers from ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. Despite an eight-member bench of the Supreme Court barring the government from processing the bill into law, the parliament went ahead to notify the law.

    The law dilutes the powers of the Chief Justice by stating that a three-member panel of senior judges, including the Chief Justice, would decide if suo motu notice should be taken. It also gives the right of appeal in all suo motu cases with retrospective effect. Previously, the Chief Justice had sole power to take suo motu and set up benches. There was no concept of appeal in an action taken under the suo motu notice.

    The new law increased tensions between the judiciary and parliament, with the latter getting full support from the government. Although the court had stopped the government from enforcing the act into law, it is unclear if the right of appeal would be entertained by the court. The law became effective after mandatory ten days since the parliament passed it again after the President returned it without an endorsement for reconsideration.

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