Pakistani parliament approves new law to curtail chief justice’s powers

By Asif Shahzad

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s parliament has passed a new law to curtail the powers of the Supreme Court’s chief justice, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said on Friday, a move that comes amid a row between the higher judiciary and the government.

Tarar had introduced the bill in the lower house of the parliament on Wednesday and it was passed by the senate, or upper house, on Thursday.

“The parliament has passed the bill,” Tarar told reporters on Friday.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government is currently involved in a row with the Supreme Court over the holding of snap polls in two provinces where former leader Imran Khan had dissolved the local governments earlier this year in a bid to force early elections.

The government says it is economically not viable to hold the snap elections first and then have another general election this year.

The Supreme Court earlier this month ordered the snap polls to be held in the two provinces within 90 days of the dissolution of the two local government, which falls by April 30.

The new draft law, which has been sent to Pakistan’s president for assent, has cut down the chief justice’s powers to constitute panels, hear appeals or assign cases to judges in his team, according to a copy of the bill.

These tasks will now be done by a three-member committee headed by the chief justice with his two most senior judges as members.

“Every cause, appeal or matter before the Supreme Court shall be heard and disposed of by a bench constituted by the committee comprising the Chief Justice of Pakistan and two most senior judged, in order of seniority,” it said.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad)