In a unanimous verdict, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial declared the Supreme Court (Review of Judgements and Orders) Act, 2023, as unconstitutional.
The legislation had widened the scope of review jurisdiction in cases decided by the apex court. Earlier, a bench that pronounced the original order had to hear the review petition. The new law, however, stated that a review petition “shall be heard by a bench larger than the bench which passed the original judgment”.
Under the new law, the review petitioner “shall have the right to appoint any advocate of the Supreme Court of his choice”, and the right to file a review petition “shall also be available to an aggrieved person against whom an order was made prior to the commencement of this Act”.
Multiple petitions were filed in the top court challenging the legislation.
In its verdict, the three-judge bench struck down the Act as “null and void”, saying it was “repugnant to and ultra vires the constitution”, and was beyond the legislative competence of parliament.
The verdict came a day after prime minister Shehbaz Sharif said his elder brother Nawaz Sharif would return to Pakistan next month.
The SC had disqualified Nawaz, a three-time ex-PM, and former Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Tareen and had imposed a lifetime ban on them contesting elections through two judgments in 2017 and 2018.
Since then, Nawaz has spent most of his time in exile in London, while Tareen, considered to be the military’s pawn, launched a new political party in June this year comprising PTI dissidents.
The SC verdict has shattered their hopes, if any, of contesting the upcoming elections to the National Assembly.
The judgment stated that any attempt by way of ordinary legislation to interfere in the scope of the SC’s powers and jurisdiction, including but not limited to its review jurisdiction, would constitute a wrong and erroneous reading and interpretation of the constitution. “It is a well-recognised principle that ordinary law cannot amend, change, delete or add to the constitution,” the order said,” the SC said, adding that the new law had created an appellate jurisdiction which had no constitutional basis, sanction or authorisation. A constitutional amendment was needed to convert the court’s review jurisdiction into an appellate jurisdiction, the bench said.
It further stated that any legislation interfering with the independence of the judiciary would, by its nature and from its very inception, be “unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect”.