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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 584, 18 April 2023

PBC: A “Black Day” for Pakistan’s Judiciary



Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) announced to observe 18 April as a “Black Day”.

Femy Francis

On 17 April, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) announced to observe 18 April as a “Black Day”. This comes after SC denounced the bill ‘Practice and Procedure Bill (2023) which amends Suo Motu powers of CJP and delegates them between three judges. SC rejected the bill even before it became a law by halting the procedure. PBC issued a letter through All-Pakistan Lawyers representative conference on 17 April comprising of Islamabad bar council and representatives of the Supreme Court and High Court bar association declaring their disappointment over the court proceedings. 
 
The conference urged the SC to not facilitate the ongoing political crisis and to recall the proposal of suspending the Practice and Procedure bill. Additionally, they warned the SC that failing to do so would compel the association to call on the legal fraternity and launch a country-wide movement protecting democratic and constitutional integrity. The lawyer's conferences would be held in all capital cities and provinces. They iterated that the bill stands in the interest of the public at large and would advance the independence of the judiciary. Furthermore, they agreed that the dismissal of a bill before it came into effect by the biased bench was controversial, as it excluded some of the senior judges of the apex court, questioning the viability of the verdict. Arguments supporting the suspension of the bill base their concern over the way in which the bill came into existence. Further, the provisions of the bill introduced were part of long-withstanding demand in the legal fraternity looking to regulate judicial powers. 
 
On 18 April, an editorial in Dawn writes that under no circumstances should elections be delayed and that excuses to delay provincial elections can be used to delay general elections. The judgment on the bill can be traced back to the ongoing political crisis which has in many ways divided the court publicly. The political question of the date to hold elections created a rift, where the pro-CJP PTI wants the election to be held within the stipulated timeframe and the anti-CJP PML-N-led coalition wanted the election to be held by October. The constant wrangling between institutions and the court shook the foundation of the judiciary.
 
The concern is not limited to the delay of elections, as Pakistan has been through several such cases; it is about the diminishing legitimacy of the Judiciary. Judges are seen as knights upholding the constitution, where they have the power to make or break constitutions. Factionalism within SC will raise questions on validity of the moral legitimacy of judges and their authority to award justice.
  
References
Sohail Khan,”Suspension of SC (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023: Pakistan Bar marks black day against SC order today,” The News International, 18 April 2023
G Shabbir Shah, “Only the SC can save the SC,” The News International, 18 April 2023
Lawyers for justice,” The News International, 18 April 2023

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