PPPP submits bill in Senate seeking judicial reforms
* Bill proposes Judicial Commission of Pakistan in place of Supreme Judicial Council
* Demands removal of discretionary power of president and SC in appointing judges
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) has submitted a bill in the upper house of parliament seeking reforms in the judiciary.
The bill proposes the formation of a Judicial Commission of Pakistan in place of the Supreme Judicial Council to monitor the working of the judicial system and to remove discretionary powers of the president and the chief justice of the Supreme Court (SC) in appointing judges.
Senator Raza Rabbani, leader of the opposition in the Senate, told reporters at a press conference on Sunday that the basic aim of this bill was to separate the judiciary from the executive to make the former more independent and efficient.
“This bill, if passed, will be called Constitutional (Nineteenth Amendment) Act 2005, as PPPP has already proposed the 18th Amendment Bill, proposing that no ordinance shall be issued when the Senate is in session,” he said.
He said the motivating force behind moving this bill in the Upper House was the report of the International Crisis Group and the resolution of the Pakistan Bar Council, both of which sought reforms in the country’s judicial system. Giving details of the Judicial Commission, Mr Rabbani said that it should consist of 19 members. He said 13 members of the commission, including the SC chief justice, two most senior SC judges after the chief justice, all four chief justices of the High Courts, one member of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and the presidents of the High Court bar associations should be at the principal seats.
The other six members of the commission should be public representatives, including two members of the National Assembly, each nominated by the leader of the house and leader of the opposition, and four senators, one from each province, nominated by the Senate chairman in consultation with the leader of the house and opposition in the Senate.
It would be mandatory for the commission to meet twice a year, while a meeting could also be called at any point by one-third strength of the members.
“The commission shall advise the president and this advice will be binding on the president in the appointments made in the superior judiciary,” Mr Rabbani said.
The bill also proposes amendments to Articles 177, 178, 181, 183, 185, 193, 194, 196, 197 and 203C of the Constitution, the deletion of Article 200, and the substitution of Article 209 of the Constitution.
Regarding the appointment of acting judges, the bill proposes that the president’s discretion with regard to the tenure of the position be deleted and the acting judge remain till the permanent judge resumes his office. The bill also proposes that temporarily appointed judges be appointed on the recommendations of the Judicial Commission for one-year terms, deleting the president’s discretion of fixing the term, he added.
In addition, the bill proposes that the existing provision under Article 200 of the Constitution of transferring High Court judges from one province to another be removed to make the judiciary independent in performing their duties without fear of being transferred to other provinces as punishment.
In articles 178 and 194 of the Constitution, the bill proposes that the following explanation be added: “Taking another oath will automatically terminate the incumbent from the office of chief justice or any other judge from such office as the case may be.”
“This amendment has been proposed to do away with the Provisional Constitutional Order permanently,” he said.
Mr Rabbani said that although PPPP had prepared the bill, the party would try to get input from its political allies, opposition parties, and bar councils, to make any required changes.
“We will try to make it a consensus bill at least among all the opposition parties,” he said. He said that repeated interruption in the democratic process in the country had weakened and dismantled civil society institutions, and the judiciary was no exception. “In this resurgence of civil authority, an independent judiciary will need to play a pivotal role as the protector of the rights of the citizens,” he said.