The Supreme Court has noted that the judiciary’s independence, authority and public respect are undermined when important cases are not listed for hearing on time.
"What is of concern to us is that cases, including those mentioned above, and in particular those in which interim orders have suspended judgments of the [Peshawar] High Court (PHC)….are not fixed promptly,” said a verdict authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
“These cases determine the rights of a large number of parties and also the peoples’ future rights. Therefore, they must be listed and decided as soon as is practicable. The people, including lawyers and judges, need to know what the law is," the judgment added.
The bench – which also included Justice Yahya Afridi – also expressed serious concern over “non-fixation” of the appeals filed by the federal and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) governments against the PHC order, declaring the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation Ordinance 2019 unconstitutional.
The PHC on October 18, 2019 declared the ordinance void. The federal and the K-P government had later moved the apex court against the order which on October 24, 2019 suspended the PHC judgment.
A five-member SC bench presided over by former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa heard the appeals against the PHC order in November and early December 2019. However, the apex court had not taken up the case since then – during the tenure of incumbent CJ Gulzar Ahmed.
Justice Isa observed that all power to be exercised by the chief justice or the Supreme Court registrar must advance the cause of justice, not to defeat it or undermine it.
"Cases in which interim orders are passed suspending judgments of the high court which had held that a law violates fundamental rights and/or the Constitution require to be decided as soon as is practicable, and this is only possible if they are fixed for hearing as early as possible," said the order.
The court said in the given circumstances it would be judicially appropriate if the cases relating to erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the provincially administered tribal areas (Pata) are clubbed and decided together lest there be conflicting findings.
"Therefore, we direct the [SC] Registrar to solicit the orders of the Hon’ble Chief Justice for the fixation of all the above-mentioned appeals/petitions," said the order.
The PHC on October 18, 2019 declared the Action-in-Aid to Civil Power Ordinance – promulgated by K-P Governor Shah Farman in September 2019 – null and void.
A divisional bench headed by PHC former chief justice Waqar Ahmad Saith and Justice Musarat Hilali had issued the order while hearing a writ petition filed by Shabeer Hussain Gigyani. Gigyani had pleaded that the act was unconstitutional and against the fundamental rights of the citizens.
While issuing its order, the PHC bench had directed K-P Inspector General of Police (IGP) to take control of the internment centers established a few years ago in tribal areas and constitute a committee regarding the release of detainees.
The K-P and the federal government had later filed appeals against the PHC order in the apex court, where the case has been pending since December 2019.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM NEWS DESK