pakistan
Monday Apr 18 2022
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Courts work for 24 hours, CJP says after Imran Khan's criticism

A general view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan building at the evening hours, in Islamabad, Pakistan April 7, 2022. — Reuters
A general view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan building at the evening hours, in Islamabad, Pakistan April 7, 2022. — Reuters

  • CJP says SC expects political leaders to defend judicial orders in public.
  • SC adjourns hearing of reference for interpretation of Article 63(A).
  • Hearing on presidential reference to take place on Tuesday 1pm.


ISLAMABAD: Courts work for 24 hours, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial said Monday in response to former prime minister Imran Khan's question on why the courts had to open at midnight on April 9 — the night he was ousted as the prime minister.

No one needs to point a finger at the courts, CJP Bandial said during the hearing on a presidential reference seeking interpretation of Article 63A of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The top judge said: "We don't care about what is being said on social media; [we] are the protector of the Constitution".

A five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court — headed by Justice Bandial and comprising Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Aijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel — had resumed hearing the reference on Monday.

During the hearing, the CJP Bandial said that the SC expects political leaders to defend judicial orders in public.

The remark came in response to former prime minister Imran Khan's recent criticism of the courts.

The apex court was also hearing PTI Chairman and ex-premier Imran Khan's plea seeking to declare dissident party members ineligible for life.

PTI's lawyer Babar Awan requested the court issue notices to the respondents of the case.

At this, CJP Bandial asked Awan to present his case first, saying that the notices will be issued afterwards.

During the hearing, the Islamabad Advocate-General Niaz Ullah Khan Niazi contended that lifelong ineligibility should be awarded over defection.

He asked the court to rule early, keeping the situation in Punjab and Centre in view.

"Parliament hasn't included lifelong disqualification in Article 63A," Justice Mandokhel remarked, asking if Parliament deliberately avoided including the lifelong disqualification in Article 63A or by mistake.

Justice Mandokhel noted that half of the people would comply with the apex court's order and half won't as some of them favour lifelong disqualification and some are against it.

"Why do you want the SC to decide this when there is Parliament?" he asked.

At this, CJP Bandial remarked that his fellow judge's stance is clear.

"Why should we announce the verdicts when 10-15 thousand people start criticising judicial orders [...] why should the court take part in your political debates."

"We expect political leaders to defend judicial orders in public," CJP Bandial remarked, adding that protecting and ensuring the rule of law is the court's responsibility.

In his arguments, Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s counsel Mustafa Ramday said that the president, in his reference, asked the court to rewrite the Constitution.

The government did nothing for the “audio and video” issue mentioned in the presidential reference, he added.

At this, the PTI’s lawyer said that two of their lawmakers had approached the ECP over the matter.

Ramday said that the Centre kept silent over the regime change in Balochistan, adding "you have seen whatever happened in Islamabad and Punjab."

'Constitution wants to end the culture of defection'

During the hearing, the CJP remarked: “It is our responsibility to uphold and protect the Constitution,” and declared that deviation from the Constitution was a violation.

The CJP said that the Constitution wants to end the culture of defection in politics. The top judge said that they have to see the results of constitutional violations and asked whether the violators of the Constitution be allowed to go unpunished or if they should be held accountable.

The advocate general Islamabad urged the top court that the defiant lawmakers should be disqualified for a lifetime.

At this, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel asked why you want the courts to do this when parliament is present?

Parliament did not include life disqualification in Article 63 (A), Justice Mandokhel said, and asked whether the House deliberately did this or it was a mistake?

Why should the court take part in the political discussion, asked the CJP.

He said the court expect the political leaders that they would defend their verdicts in public.

Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing till 1 pm tomorrow.

Earlier, at the outset of the hearing, the additional attorney-general maintained that the court was requested to adjourn the hearing till the appointment of a new attorney-general of Pakistan (AGP).

Khalid Javed Khan stepped down as the AGP on the night of former prime minister Imran Khan's ouster through a vote of no confidence on April 9.

Responding to the AAG's statement, CJP Bandial remarked that Khan had completed his arguments as the AGP while the political parties are yet to complete their arguments.

The new AGP can give the arguments at the end of the case if he wants, the judge added.