ISLAMABAD    -    Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial Monday questioned the federal government’s re­action to an adverse de­cision of the court about the Punjab chief minister election and said, “does it reflect any respect for the rule of law and the independence of the ju­diciary? I simply leave the matter there.”

He, however, added that the court will not hesitate to act if the Constitution and/or the constitutional institu­tions are undermined, violated or attacked.

The CJP expressed these views while ad­dressing the opening ceremony of the New Judicial Year 2022-23, which was also addressed by Attor­ney General for Pa­kistan Ashtar Ausaf, Vice-Chairman Pakistan Bar Council Hafiz-ur-Rehman and President 

 Supreme Court Bar Association Ah­san Bhoon. He said, “with utmost re­spect, I ponder, does such a reaction by the federal government to an ad­verse decision of the court reflect any respect for the rule of law and the in­dependence of the judiciary? I simply leave the matter there.”

He reiterated the court’s commit­ment to defend the Constitution in its entirety. The CJP urged all the political parties, their leaders, all decision mak­ers and privileged members of the so­ciety to put aside their differences and grievances and act in unity for the pub­lic interest and the national good. He also said that the political events tak­ing place since March 2022 have been accompanied by an avalanche of polit­ical cases involving complex questions of constitutional law.

He started with the Presidential Reference No.1 of 2022 (PLD 2022 SC 488) filed on 21.03.2022 in which the Court whilst observing its juris­dictional limits envisaged in the Con­stitution, rendered its interpretation of the democratic thresholds and cri­teria mandated under Article 63A of the Constitution.

The CJP added that pursuant to the judgment in Suo Motu Case No.4 of 2021 (PLD 2022 SC 306) the Court has restricted the invocation of its original suo motu jurisdiction by the Chief Justice of Pakistan to cases rec­ommended by one or more Judges of the Court in order to check only egregious violations of Fundamen­tal Rights or of the mandates of the Constitution. He further said that on the recommendation of judges the Court took suo motu notice of the or­der of dissolution of the National As­sembly issued by the President on 03.04.2022 whilst accepting the ad­vice of the former Prime Minister in Suo Motu Case No.1 of 2022. The im­pugned action was set aside after a five-day hearing.

He mentioned that the dissolution of the National Assembly was also challenged in petitions and the judg­ment is reported as Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Vs. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2022 SC 290 and PLD 2022 SC 574). Similar notice was again taken in Suo Motu Case No.2 of 2022 to ensure com­pliance with the due process of law when amendments were brought about in the Exit From Pakistan (Control) Rules, 2010 by the incum­bent Federal Government. By such amendments names of persons who were a part of the federal govern­ment but who were also the accused in criminal complaints or criminal proceedings for committing financial offences were removed from the Exit Control List without following due process requirements. Interim di­rections were issued and the matter is still sub-judice. He also mentioned that in all other matters of public in­terest the Court has acted only when presented with petitions from se­rious stakeholders who have chal­lenged alleged unconstitutional Acts of Parliament and/or actions of con­stitutional functionaries.

He pointed that one such case where the Court intervened was the ruling issued by the then Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly on 22.07.2022. This ruling ignored the express words of Article 63A of the Constitution and the above-mentioned judgment of the Court in Presidential Reference No.1 of 2022 to discard ten votes cast by members of a political party in the election of the Chief Minister of the Province. After a three-day hearing the Court set aside the ruling of the Deputy Speaker and the result of the election on 26.07.2022. Justice Ban­dial said that this decision prompt­ed a sharp reaction from the political quarters that were disappointed by the judgment. However, as the guard­ians of the Constitution, the Court and its Judges have exercised restraint and remained detached from such rhetoric. Nevertheless, it did surprise the Court that during the hearing of the case, the current and several past office bearers of the Bar approached the Bench with a request for consti­tuting a Full Court on the urge of the respondent leader of the political party that is also the principal mem­ber of the coalition in the Federal Government.