ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court of Pakistan summoned the secretaries of interior and finance on April 3 (Monday) after rejecting the government’s request for the formation of a bigger bench to hear the PTI appeal against the delay in elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The petition was heard by a shortened bench led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprised of Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan after Judge Jamal Khan Mandokhail recused himself from the case earlier in the day, effectively disbanding the four-judge bench.
At the hearing, the chief judge said that if the government and the opposition engaged in talks, the proceedings may be temporarily paused. “If conversation is not undertaken, we will play our constitutional duty,” he added, adding, “Constitutions are the spirit of democracy.”
At the hearing, CJP Bandial said that Judge Mandokhail had consented to join the bench till yesterday. He said that the matter will be heard by a fresh bench.
As Justice Mandokhail was speaking, the chief justice stopped him and exited the courtroom, followed by other members of the bench.
The hearing in the case will continue at 2 p.m., according to the apex court officials.
Refusal of the bench headed by Judge Faez Isa
Earlier, the chief justice overruled the views of a three-member bench of the Supreme Court on the powers of taking suo motu notices and the formation of special benches.
SC Registrar Ishrat Ali issued a circular in this regard after a bench comprised of Justice Qazi Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Aminuddin Khan, and Justice Shahid Waheed issued a 2-1 majority verdict ordering the postponement of cases being heard under Article 184(3) of the Constitution until the Supreme Court Rules 1980 were amended regarding the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s discretionary powers to form benches.
The judgement was made by a three-judge panel in a suo motu case challenging the allocation of 20 marks to Hafiz-e-Quran while seeking admission to the MBBS/BDS degree. Judge Waheed dissented from the ruling, claiming that the issues stated and considered in the order were unrelated to the case.
Hearing on Thursday
When the hearing on Thursday commenced, CJP Bandial said that Judge Khan wished to speak. Afterwards, Judge Khan indicated that he would be unable to serve on the bench following his decision in suo motu cases yesterday.
He was one of three judges who ruled on Wednesday to halt proceedings on continuing suo motu notifications until procedural guidelines were established. The judgement was made on the basis of a suo motu notice taken on the giving of 20 additional marks to Hafiz-e-Quran in the MBBS/BDS admissions. The judgement was given with a 2-1 majority due to Justice Shahid Waheed’s dissenting note, which said that the verdict was made on issues that were not brought before the court.
According to the judgement, the chief justice does not have unilateral and arbitrary authority to submit cases for hearing and construct special benches by selecting judges.
“The Chief Justice does not have unilateral and arbitrary authority to resolve the following topics under the Constitution.” With all due respect, the Chief Justice cannot substitute his own expertise for the Constitution’s. Collective decision by the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court Judges cannot be undertaken by an individual, even if the Chief Justice,” the judgement states.
“The interests of citizens would therefore be best served to postpone the hearing of this case, and of all such cases under article 184(3) of the Constitution, until the concerns described above are first addressed by enacting necessary regulations in accordance with article 191 of the Constitution,” it said.
After the recusal, the case was deferred until Friday.
The top court’s March 1 judgement was debated at Wednesday’s session, with Justice Mandokhail and Justice Munib Akhtar disagreeing on the ruling’s legality. “The justices of the supreme court were being targeted,” the chief justice lamented. “We are being patient, but we will investigate this situation.” “Everything I’ve done up to this point has been in accordance with the Constitution,” he said.
At one point, the chief justice said that he would conduct an important meeting after the hearing and that there will be a fresh dawn of optimism on Monday.
Arguments of Attorney General Usman Mansoor
When Attorney General Usman Mansoor Awan asked the court to assemble a full bench to hear the matter, the CJP said that various considerations had to be considered before forming the full bench, since there were occasionally challenges surrounding the availability of all judges. “We also don’t want to jeopardise the procedures of other matters currently before the Supreme Court,” he said.
The solicitor general also informed the Supreme Court that Pakistan was suffering a billion-rupee deficit, making elections impossible in these tough circumstances. He devised an explanation for why the finance ministry refused to send funding to the ECP for elections. He also said that the interest rate was likely to grow to 22%, substantially increasing the country’s debt.
Recusal of Judge Mandokhail
The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s four-member bench was disbanded when Judge Jamal Khan Mandokhail excused himself from hearing the case.
The new bench, which includes Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, was formed after the five-member court was dissolved on Thursday due to Judge Aminuddin Khan’s recusal.
The statement came as four judges arrived in court to continue hearing the lawsuit brought by former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to postpone the Punjab elections until October 8. The electoral authority cited security and budgetary concerns as grounds for postponing the polls.
In his dissenting opinion, Judge Mandokhail said that the ruling issued yesterday “was not dictated in court, nor was I consulted by the HCJ.” Nonetheless, the effect of the judgement needs assessment in court.” Since the order was made without his input, the judge said that he is unfit for the bench.