Pak Affairs Politics

Pakistan cabinet to approve new constitutional amendment

ISLAMABAD: A special meeting of the Pakistani federal cabinet is likely to be held on Wednesday to approve the draft of the 19th Constitution Amendment Bill, 2010, prepared by the all-party Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms (PCCR).

According to official sources here Tuesday, the draft proposes about 15 changes in Articles 81, 175, 175-A and 182 of the Constitution in the light of the Supreme Court’s October 21 order on petitions challenging the mechanism of judges’ appointment under the 18th Amendment.

The sources said the government planned to get the bill passed by the National Assembly on the same day it was approved by the cabinet.

The PCCR, headed by Senator Raza Rabbani, has included in the draft all but two key recommendations of the Supreme Court. Through an amendment to Clause 2 of Article 175-A, the number of the members of the Judicial Commission (JC) has been increased from seven to nine by including two more senior judges of the SC in accordance with the recommendations.

There will be six judges, including the chief justice and a retired judge to be nominated by the CJ for two years, giving them a majority in the commission which also includes the federal law minister, attorney general and a senior lawyer nominated by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC).

Through a change in Sub-Clause (iv), 15-year experience has been made mandatory for the lawyer to be nominated by the PBC. An amendment to Clause 9 of Article 175-A states that “when the National Assembly is dissolved, the total membership of the Parliamentary Committee shall consist of the members from the Senate only .”

This amendment has been inserted in response to a query and a lacuna pointed out by the SC during the hearing. Under an amendment to Clause 12 of the article, the committee will be able to reject a nomination submitted by the JC only by a three-fourths majority of its total members within 14 days.

According to a new proviso, the committee will forward its decision of rejecting any nomination with reasons so recorded to the JC through the prime minister. Earlier, the prime minister had no role in the judges’ appointment. “If a nomination is not confirmed, the commission shall send another nomination.”

By amending Clause 13 of the article, the Parliamentary Committee has been made bound to send the name of the nominee confirmed to the prime minister, instead of the president. Two new clauses have been inserted in Article 175-A: “The meetings of the committee shall be held in camera and the record of its proceedings shall be maintained” and “The
provisions of Article 68 shall not apply to the proceedings of the Committee,” meaning that the members can discuss the conduct of judges at the meetings.

Article 68 bars legislators from discussing the conduct of the judges during parliament’s session. It shows that the Parliamentary Committee has been given the final authority to accept or reject the nominations of the Judicial Commission, headed by the chief justice, for appointment or elevation of judges to the superior courts against the SC’s
recommendations.

Similarly, the PCCR’s members have not agreed to the SC’s recommendation that “if the PC disagrees with or rejects any recommendations of the JC, it will give specific reasons and the same shall be justiciable by the SC”.

Input from Agencies

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Mubashar Nizam

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