The federal cabinet in Pakistan has approved a bill that aims to limit the discretionary powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice, or legal action initiated by a judge. The move follows concerns raised by two Supreme Court judges regarding the powers of the Chief Justice, stating that the apex court “cannot be dependent on the solitary decision of one man”. Under the new bill, a committee comprising three senior judges will make decisions on the suo motu notice, rather than the Chief Justice alone. The bill also includes a clause allowing parties to challenge the notice, which must be filed within 30 days and will be fixed for a hearing in two weeks.
The bill will now be tabled in the National Assembly for clearance from the lower house, followed by the Senate for final approval. The decision of the committee will be by majority vote, but the two Supreme Court judges have cautioned against making all decisions by majority rule, calling it “no less dictatorship”.
This move towards a more rule-based system, as stated by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, has been seen as a “ray of hope” for the country. It is hoped that it will help to increase transparency and accountability in the judicial system and ensure a fair and just legal process.