The Supreme Court on Monday expressed anger at the government for not filing its reply in the 18th Amendment case.
A 17-member full court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was hearing a set of petitions, challenging the judicial commission for the appointment of superior courts’ judges provided in the 18th Amendment and called for immediate annulment of Article 175-A by terming it a law against the freedom of the judiciary.
Appearing on notice, Dr Abdul Basit, counsel for the Federation, submitted that he could not file a concise statement unless leave to appeal is granted. The chief justice, however, observed that there was no need to grant leave to appeal as under Article 184(3) after the issuance of notice you have filed the petition, adding the notice was issued on April 28, 2010.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry remarked that how could the case be heard when the government has not submitted its reply.Dr Basit and Ibrahim Satti informed the apex court that the Federation engaged them as counsel in the case on Saturday; therefore, they could not file a concise statement.
The CJ, however, asked the learned counsel that as they had got the notice; therefore, they must have filed the concise statements earlier. Accepting the mistake, Dr Basit responded that they must have filed the concise statement earlier.
He further contended that he had been in touch with the decision makers for the last three days, and they said that the Federation does not want adjournment of the hearing, so “I will file my reply in mid of the case hearing.”
The chief justice told the counsel that he can’t file the concise statement in the middle of the case. The chief justice said that the government does not seem serious in the case. During the course of the hearing Attorney General Justice (R) Maulvi Anwarul Haq tried to say something about the concise statement. The chief justice, however, told him, “You are the officer of the case, and the court has to see that being the chief officer of the court whether he could argue the case before the court on behalf of any party.”
The chief justice asked the attorney general, “if possible then get the minutes of proceedings of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR) and the debate that took place in parliament for the approval of the 18th Amendment. “If you provide these documents then it will be a great help on the part of the government, the CJ added.
Justice Jawad S Khawaja remarked that the debate in the PCCR took place for 960 hours, and civil society and lawyer gave a lot of suggestions. He said it was first time in the history that a Larger Bench is going to decide the contour of the institutions. “We all are for the service of the people, and we don’t have anything outside the will of the people,” Jawad S Khawaja added.
The chief justice in his remarks said the Supreme Court retains the power to review any constitutional amendment. Senior advocate of the Supreme Court Abdul Hafeez Pirzada also appeared before the court and submitted that he also wanted to file a petition in his personal capacity but he could not get the record regarding the 18th Amendment from the National Assembly archive, so he will file the petition on Tuesday today.
Around 15 petitions have been filed in the apex court against the 18th amendment. Some of the petitioners included Nadeem Ahmed advocate, Rawalpindi District Bar Association, Watan Party, Supreme Court Bar Association, Muhammad Ejazul Haq and others, making the Federation as respondent.
In his petition, Muhammad Ejazul Haq had also challenged the renaming of NWFP province as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Overall, the petitioners have challenged the judicial commission for appointment of superior courts’ judges provided in the 18th amendment and called for immediate annulment of Article 175-A by terming it a law against the freedom of judiciary.
They argued that the appointment of judges is linked with the independence of judiciary, thus judicial appointments cannot be made through the judicial commission having political involvement.
They stated that the formation of the judicial commission under the 18th amendment was against the basic structure of the Constitution and independence of judiciary. They said that in the Islamic history, the judiciary was considered highly respectable institution, adding that there was hardly any country in the world which had undermined the independence of judiciary as the government was trying through Article 175-A. Later, the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing till May 31.