Several quarters have called for the formation of a full court bench to hear the petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PML-Q) Parvez Elahi against the ruling given by Punjab deputy speaker regarding the legality of the Punjab chief minister’s election, with representatives of the parties heading the coalition government questioning the Supreme Court’s latest decisions. Here’s why the demand for a full court is important.
The petition is currently set to be heard by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhter. It should be noted that these judges are also three of the five judges who deemed former National Assembly speaker Qasim Suri’s decision to dismiss the vote of no-confidence against PTI chief Imran Khan in April was unconstitutional, resulting in Khan’s ouster.
During the presser, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz said that ‘bench-fixing’ is a serious crime, while Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chair Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that three people cannot be allowed to make decisions impacting the whole country, and stressed that the government alliance only sought a full court hearing.
The importance of a full court has also been highlighted by former members of the judiciary, including a former chief justice as well as three recently retired judges, one of which is Retired Judge Maqbool Baqar.
Retired judge Maqbool Baqar told Geo News that the ‘destructive process of re-writing’ the Constitution has begun, and that the Supreme Court does not comprise of the chief justice alone. He said that he was taken aback by what he termed a ‘clear violation’ of judicial tradition of bench formation.
Former senator and PPP leader Farhatullah Babar also stressed the importance of a full court hearing, and tweeted that if a judicial verdict regarding a constitutional interpretation is necessary, then it must be done by a full court.
Sending home an elected PM & CM thru judicial verdict is destabilising.
If it’s necessary due to constitutional interpretation then it must be by full court. Earlier a 5-member bench gave a 3-2 decision in Art 63A
Fairness demands that not only they but full court should decide
— Farhatullah Babar (@FarhatullahB) July 25, 2022
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also said that it is crucial that the court appear nonpartisan and unbiased, which is why a full court was necessary.
HRCP supports the Supreme Court Bar Association's demand for the #SupremeCourt of Pakistan to constitute a full bench to hear its review petition concerning #Article63A. It is critical for Pakistan that the court not be seen as anything less than nonpartisan and impartial.
— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (@HRCP87) July 25, 2022
The President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Ahsan Bhoon, as well as six former presidents of the SCBA have also supported the call for a full court bench, as have other analysts and experts.
Supreme Court Bar Association President Ahsan Bhoon and six former presidents of SCBA also call for a full court bench of the Supreme Court.
— Hasan Zaidi (@hyzaidi) July 25, 2022
Parliament, the lawmaker cannot amend Constitution without 2/3 majority. Law should provide that interpretation should be done by a full court. Inaction by lawmakers have turned legislatures into petitioners. SC should handle the Constitution with caution and avoid controversy.
— Younus Dagha (@DaghaYounus) July 24, 2022
There are good legal reasons for forming a bench of more than eight judges. In an earlier case 8 out of 17 SC judges made observations (not part of the order of the court) about the powers of the party head that are relevant to the Deputy Speaker's ruling.
— salman akram raja (@salmanAraja) July 25, 2022
Decision to not count vote was given by a 5 member bench which was a split decision with 3:2
And now only those 3 judges are hearing the case who gave majority decision. Those who had dissented should also have a voice. It is therefore imperative that a full court is formed.
— Najam Ali (@NajamAli2020) July 25, 2022
1. CJs’ discretionary powers to constitute benches has been under scrutiny in a number of countries
In India, for example, four senior SC judges held an unprecedented press conference in 2018 to express concern about how CJ was allocating sensitive cases to only select benches
— Reema Omer (@reema_omer) July 24, 2022
Hamza Shahbaz ka jo bhi faisla hu. Review petition on 63 A should be heard by full bench. Three judges should not impose their own reading of constitution or rather rewriting of constitution on whole country.
— Jasir Shahbaz (@LahoreMarquez) July 25, 2022