Supreme Court strikes down review of judgements law with unanimous verdict
CJP-led bench pronounces judgement, declaring the law contrary to Constitution: Observes it carries no legal value as Parliament does not have power to enact such legislation
By News Desk
August 11, 2023 11:23 AM
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has struck down the Supreme Court (Review of Judgements and Orders) Act 2023 in a unanimous verdict, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar pronounced the decision reserved on June 19 after six hearings spanning from June 7 to 19.
The unanimous verdict of the three apex court judges came after the bench heard a raft of petitions challenging the law which was enacted in May.
Terming the law contrary to the Constitution, the Supreme Court maintained that the law had no legal value and termed it “in conflict with the Constitution”. The apex court further stated that Parliament did not have the power to enact such legislation.
Though the apex court said the detailed judgement will be released later but the SC issued the 87-page detailed verdict about an hour after the announcement of the short decision by CJP Bandial. The detailed judgement also included a 33-page additional note written by Justice Munib Akhtar.
In its judgement, the Supreme Court declared the law null and void as it was ultra vires to the Constitution.
The law was aimed at enlarging the top court’s jurisdiction of reviewing its judgements and orders. It expanded the jurisdiction of the court by giving a right to appeal under Article 184(3), which grants the SC powers to issue an order if it considers a question of public importance with reference to the enforcement of fundamental rights involved.
Under the law, the scope of a review would be similar to Article 185, which confers appellate jurisdiction to the top court.
The detailed verdict said that any attempt by way of ordinary legislation to interfere in the scope of the SC’s powers and jurisdiction would constitute a wrong and erroneous reading and interpretation of the Constitution.
The verdict further said that there was no “express authorisation” in the Constitution which empowered Parliament to enlarge the apex court’s review jurisdiction under Article 188.
“In addition, the 2023 Act does not expand review jurisdiction rather it creates a new appellate jurisdiction which has no constitutional basis, sanction or authorisation,” the SC verdict further said.
During the hearing, the apex court bench had observed that decision in the case would determine the fate of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) review against April 4 verdict of fixing May 14 as the date for holding Punjab Assembly elections. CJP Bandial had then expressed his reservations, underscoring the importance of comprehensive consultation with experienced legal minds before enacting pivotal laws such as the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act. He had, however, acknowledged the necessity for remedies within the framework of Article 184(3), a provision that empowers the Supreme Court to assume jurisdiction in cases of significant public interest.
The law was aimed to facilitate and strengthen the Supreme Court in exercising its powers to review its judgments and orders.
Titled as the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023, this legislation aims to enhance and fortify the powers of the SC in revisiting its judgments. The act seeks to broaden the jurisdiction of the highest court, as outlined in Article 188 of the Constitution.
This empowers the apex court to reevaluate any judgment, ensuring that the fundamental right to justice is upheld through meaningful review of its judgments and orders, particularly those made under Article 184(3) in its original jurisdiction.
According to Section 2 of the act, the review’s scope, encompassing both factual and legal aspects, mirrors that of an appeal under Article 185 of the constitution. Section 3 stipulates that a review petition shall be considered by a larger bench than the one responsible for the initial judgment or order. Similarly, Section 4 grants the petitioner seeking review the authority to choose any advocate from the Supreme Court for this purpose.
In accordance with Section 5, the right to file a review petition is extended to an aggrieved party who has been subjected to an order under Article 184(3) of the Constitution prior to the act’s commencement. However, such a review petition, as per this section, must be submitted within 60 days of the act’s commencement.
Section 6 dictates that the review petition must be lodged within 60 days of the original order’s issuance. Notably, the provisions of this act held paramount significance and overrode any conflicting elements in other prevailing laws, rules, regulations, or judgments, even those from the Supreme Court and the high court.
Reporter Amanat Gishkori