The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on Sunday urged the top court to urgently take up a petition seeking a review of its interpretation of Article 63A of the Constitution, which was issued on May 17 but is still pending a detailed verdict.
In a statement, SCBA President Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon emphasized that a speedy hearing of the review petition against the Supreme Court’s short judgment on its interpretation of Article 63A was necessary to wind up the ongoing controversy over its application and to “restore the confidence of the public at large, on the constitutional and democratic system.” Noting the issue was “purely related” to the understanding of the Constitution, he said this was the correct time to conclude the matter to avoid further criticism of the judiciary’s conduct.
“The [SCBA] president observed that had the review petition being filed by the SCBA been heard or taken up by the court, the recent controversy arising over the interpretation of Article 63A(1)b, during the course of election of chief minister Punjab, may have been avoided,” read the statement. Noting the short order on a presidential reference seeking the court’s interpretation of the constitutional clause had been a split decision, Bhoon said this proved there were “certain touchstones” that needed to be addressed and a full court bench should be formed to achieve a decision that would ensure the confidence of the public and all political parties.
“He [Bhoon] maintained that the SCBA, alongside the overwhelming majority of the legal fraternity, is of the opinion that the interpretation of Article 63A pertaining to the treatment of dissidents is against the norms of natural justice, hence requires thorough and detailed debate,” it said.
The SCBA statement concluded by calling on all political parties to refrain from making the apex court’s orders and judges controversial, adding the court should be allowed to interpret constitutional matters.
In addition to the SCBA, the Pakistan Bar Council’s vice-chairman has also urged the Supreme Court to conduct an urgent hearing of the review petition. Justice Maqbool Baqar, who recently retired from the Supreme Court, has also stressed on the formation of a full court to hear the petition against the deputy speaker’s ruling in the Punjab Assembly, stressing this would enhance the judiciary’s image.
On May 17, in a 3-2 decision, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on a reference filed by President Arif Alvi seeking an interpretation of Article 63A, saying it ensured the fundamental rights of a parliamentary party over its members and any vote cast contrary to party instructions should not be counted. The SCBA had filed a review of this on June 23, maintaining that the opinion was not in accordance with the norms of parliamentary democracy and was tantamount to rewriting the Constitution.