‘Supreme law-making body’: SC notes parliament has authority to change Constitution

Justice Mansoor observes that court could only examine a matter when it is inconsistent with the Constitution

Sohail Khan
A representational image of the Supreme Court of Pakistan building. — SC website
A representational image of the Supreme Court of Pakistan building. — SC website

  • SC hears Imran Khan's petition challenging amendments made to NAB Ordinance 1999.
  • Apex court issues notice to federal government.
  • CJP Bandial observes making illegal acts by favouring someone fall into the domain of corruption.

ISLAMABAD: Justice Syed Mansoor Ali of the Supreme Court Friday remarked that the Constitution has no basic structure, adding that being the supreme law-making body parliament has the authority to change the Constitution.

The comments from the top court's judge came during the hearing of a petition filed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan challenging the amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.

Justice Mansoor observed that the court could only examine a matter when it was inconsistent with the Constitution.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Mansoor, questioned the petitioner as to how the recent amendments made to the NAO 1999 were inconsistent with the Constitution.

On the PTI counsel’s plea requesting that the implementation of the legislation should be linked to the final decision of the court in the instant petition, the apex court issued a notice to the federal government.

During the course of the hearing, CJP Bandial asked PTI lawyer Khwaja Haris to place his formulations in detail stating how the amendments conflicted with the Constitution. “And also tell us about the amendments that could affect the NAB law as well as cases pending before the accountability courts,” the CJP asked.

Justice Mansoor observed that an appeal against the amendments to the NAB law was also pending before the Islamabad High Court. “Would it not be appropriate if the high court should first decide it,” he asked, adding that the high court could not move beyond the fundamental rights in the petition filed under Article 199 of the Constitution. “So let the wisdom of the high court come first,” Justice Mansoor added.

Advocate Haris, however, submitted that the NAB amendments would be applicable not to one high court but the whole country, adding that the amendments had made public office holders above the accountability process. “Without accountability, neither governance nor democracy can flourish,” he submitted.

Justice Mansoor asked the counsel if the government had abolished the NAB, then what would have been the basis of his petition? Haris replied that Islam and the Constitution stressed that one must be made accountable for wrongdoings, adding that independence of the judiciary and accountability of public office holders were two major parts of the Constitution.

CJP Bandial observed that making illegal acts by favouring someone fell into the domain of corruption. 

“Basically, misuse of powers and causing loss to the national kitty is corruption,” the CJP remarked, adding that if a dam was going to be built somewhere and a lobby opposed it, it would be against national interests. He said that Justice (retd) Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel used to say that Dera Ismail Khan needed a dam.

“In your petition, you have submitted that the amendments are against parliamentary democracy, so tell us which amendments are against the Constitution,” Justice Mansoor asked Khwaja Haris.

'Constitution has no basic structure'

Meanwhile, Justice Ijaz asked the counsel to tell them if any amendments were meant to give relief to any accused. Haris replied that the amendments which were inconsistent with the Constitution should be struck down, adding amendments against the basic structure of the Constitution was not possible.

At this, Justice Mansoor replied that the Constitution has no basic structure. 

Haris submitted that the court had accepted the basic structure of the Constitution in the case of the constitutional amendments. He contended that the facility of mutual legal assistance had been abolished in the NAB law through the recent amendments.

The PTI counsel pleaded with the court halt the implementation of the new NAB law until the decision of the petition.

Justice Mansoor replied that NAB courts were functioning and how could they lock them. CJP Bandial observed that it was their obligation to work in accordance with the law and Constitution.

Earlier, Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman submitted before the court that he would assist the court in the matter, adding that the government also wanted to hire a senior counsel for the case. The court adjourned the case until Friday.