18th Amendment eliminates role of PM, says CJ -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

18th Amendment eliminates role of PM, says CJ

By Sohail Khan

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Tuesday said that the 1973 Constitution enshrined that there would be a parliamentary form of government in the country with prime minister as head of the state, however, under Article 175-A, the role of PM had been taken away.

“Under the parliamentary system, the role of the prime minister could neither be eliminated nor decreased,” the chief justice remarked while heading a 17-member larger bench of the apex court hearing identical petitions, challenging certain provisions of the 18th Amendment with particular reference to the formation of a judicial commission for appointment of judges of superior courts.

The chief justice further said that being the head of the state under the parliamentary system, the role of the prime minister had been eliminated through 18th Amendment under Article 175-A of the Constitution.

Attorney General for Pakistan Maulvi Anwrul Haq, while commencing his arguments, submitted that parliament, the supreme law making body, could make amendments in the Constitution under Article 239 and it could not be challenged in any court of law.

He, however, contended that the new procedure of appointment of judges in the 18th Amendment would further ensure consolidation of independence of the judiciary. The chief justice told the attorney general that the court had already held in a Sindh High Court case that it was a democratic system with prime minister as head of the state. “This is not the spirit of the parliamentary system. You cannot minimise the role of the head of state, his role cannot be taken away,” the CJ said.

The AG, however, admitted that upon plain reading of the provision, it appeared that the prime minister had no role. The chief justice said, “We have to run the country under a system. It should not happen that dictators could come and abrogate the Constitution. In future, no one should come and say that he has powers to change the Constitution,” he added.

Maulvi Anwarul Haq submitted that the role of the prime minister had already been curtailed to great extent in the judicial verdict of Al Jihad Trust. Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday also questioned the role of the premier and said that his importance had been ended with this provision.

“The roles of chief justice, two senior judges of the apex court, law minister, attorney general and the prime minister have been reduced to zero,” Justice Ramday said. Justice Tariq Pervez said that under the new procedure of the appointment of judges, the Parliamentary Committee was not empowered to reject the recommendations of the Judicial Commission.

The attorney general replied that the recommendations of the Judicial Commission could be rejected under abnormal circumstances. However, he said if the Parliamentary Committee rejected any judge, it could not be challenged in the court.

Justice Jawad S Khawaja said that the members of the Parliamentary Committee were not elected by the public but the leader of the House and the opposition. Earlier, Advocate General Sindh Yousaf Legahri continued his arguments and contended that in the Balochistan High Court, judges had been appointed from other provinces while they lacked professional capabilities.

At this, the court admonished the Advocate General Sindh for his statement regarding the BHC judges. “You have not solid information and you can look into the orders of the Supreme Court”, the chief justice admonished Yousaf Leghari.

Meanwhile, Advocate General Sindh took back his statement regarding the judges of the BHC. He, however, submitted that there were 29 judges in the Sindh High Court of which six were from the Sindh province. Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday said, “We are all Pakistanis and there should be no question of Sindhis or Punjabis.” Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing till today (Wednesday).
Source: The News
Date:9/1/2010