18th Amendment case: SC verdict widely welcomed
By Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court’s interim short order granting time to parliament to review the judges’ appointment mechanism provided in the 18th Constitution Amendment has been hailed in political and legal circles. Most people believe that it has removed all apprehensions about confrontation between institutions and thus provided a sigh of relief to the nation.
Leaders belonging to major political parties, including those who were part of the 26-member Parliamentary Committee on Constitution Reforms (PCCR) that drafted the amendment bill, say that through its judgment, the Supreme Court has accepted parliament’s sovereign right to amend the Constitution.
Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for PML-N and a member of the PCCR, said that the Supreme Court’s decision had confirmed the concerns and apprehensions expressed by his party chief Nawaz Sharif on the judges’ appointment issue were correct. Mr Sharif, he said, had advised parties to consult the judiciary before presenting the bill to parliament.
“Had that been done, things would have been different,” he said, adding “the decision has foiled hopes of all those who wanted to see the judiciary and parliament pitched against each other.”
Another member of PCCR and Opposition Leader in the Senate, Wasim Sajjad, told Dawn that the apex court had given consideration to Article 239 of the Constitution according to which amendments to the Constitution could not be set aside.
Article 239(5) states: “No amendment of the Constitution shall be called in question in any court on any ground whatsoever.”
Mr Sajjad, who belongs to PML-Q and appeared as a lawyer in the petitions challenging the 18th Amendment, termed it a “positive” decision and said it had averted a collision between institutions.
In reply to a question, Mr Sajjad said the Supreme Court’s recommendations were not binding upon the parliament. He, however, expressed the hope that the PCCR would meet again soon to review Article 175-A in the light of the verdict.
“It is a balanced and wise decision,” said Jamaat-i-Islami’s Senator Prof Khurshid Ahmed, who was also a member of the PCCR. “The judgment represents judicial restraint.”
Talking to Dawn, Prof Khurshid said now it was the responsibility of the parliament to review Article 175-A on merit as recommended by the apex court. He was of the view that the judgment would prove to be a “test case” for the parliament.
Senator Ilyas Bilour of ANP termed it a “very good decision”, saying it would prove to be a good omen for the country. He said all the political parties having representation in parliament had unanimously passed the 18th Amendment and the Supreme Court had accepted the parliament’s prerogative to amend the Constitution. He showed his pleasure that the apex court did not touch other issues like renaming of NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Lawyers have also largely welcomed the verdict and expressed the hope that there would be no confrontation between the parliament and the judiciary in future as well.
Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, a lawyer and PPP leader, who at present is on a visit to Spain, was of the view that the Supreme Court had powers to strike down the amendments, but said it had “acted extremely carefully”. He, however, supported the parliament’s role in the judges’ appointment process.
Talking to a TV channel, he advised the government to look into positive aspects of the verdict and avoid confrontation with the judiciary. He said the PCCR should complete its work within three months given to it by the apex court.
A former spokesman for the chief justice, Athar Minallah, said the Supreme Court had shown “grace and vision” and now the parliament had to show equal grace and respect for the apex court and its decisions. He said the SC judges had provided another opportunity to the parliament to set its house in order.