ISLAMABAD  - The proposed Constitutional (24th Amendment) Bill, 2016, tabled in the National Assembly on November 18, though has not elicited much criticism from mainstream opposition political parties, its timing has certainly raised eyebrows.

The proposed bill is seeking a right to appeal against order(s) of the Supreme Court in suo moto cases.

The tabling of the bill at a time when the Supreme Court was hearing the Panama Papers case against the prime minister and his family under Article 184(3) of the constitution, legal brains of the opposition parties were terming it an attempt by the government to pre-emptive any adverse verdict in Panama Leaks case.

Background interviews with leaders of opposition parties revealed that with a little bit criticism on its timing, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was ready to back the government while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders were contemplating to end their boycott of the parliament to register their protest over the bill which they dubbed a move with “biased and mala fide intentions”.

Although the PPP was an ardent supporter of the move, since it was the long standing demand of the party to have the right to appeal in suo moto cases, under the given circumstances the party may seek some bargain on extending support to the 24th amendment because without the support of the PPP, the government cannot get it sail through the parliament.

As it is a constitutional amendment bill, it would require a two-thirds majority in both the houses for its passage which could not be possible without the PPP backing.

Some insiders in the PPP said that the party leadership should press the government for acceptance of the party’s four demands including the passage of the much talked about Panama Leaks bill tabled in the upper house of the parliament by the joint opposition.

The sources said that PPP was also trying to take other opposition parties on board on the issue to mount pressure on the government for acceptance of their demands for their support to the proposed bill.

Although the PTI leadership has taken an extreme position on the 24th amendment bill, they could join other opposition parties and back-channel contacts between the PPP and the PTI leadership has already been established.

On November 18, Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid tabled the proposed bill 2016 in the lower house stating; “At present, there is no provision for appeal against the orders of the Supreme Court in exercise of its original jurisdiction under clause (3) of Article 184 of the Constitution. Since such an order invokes a question of public importance with reference to enforcement of fundamental rights conferred by Chapter I of part II, an aggrieved party should have the right to appeal, which shall also be in conformity with the fundamental right to fair trial and due process conferred by Article 10A of the Constitution”.

It said the proposed amendment provided for an appeal within 30 days of an order of the Supreme Court under Clause (3) of Article 184. The appeal to be filed by the aggrieved party shall be heard by a bench larger than the one which had passed the order. The proposed Clause 184(4) says, “Any person aggrieved by an order passed by the Supreme Court under Clause 3 may, within 30 days of the passing of such order, prefer an appeal to the Supreme Court”.

While, the proposed Clause 184(5) suggests, “An appeal preferred under [proposed] Clause (4) shall be heard by a bench larger than the bench which had passed the order under appeal.”