Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice in its meeting discussed ‘The Ratification of Foreign Agreements by Parliament Bill, 2018 moved by Senator Mian Raza Rabbani. He said that bringing the foreign agreements to Parliament will make the process more transparent. The minister while responding to the bill opposed the bill calling it against the principle of trichotomy of powers as provided by the Constitutional scheme. He said that Article 173(3) of the Constitution permits the executive authority to enter into any contract or agreement. He said that there are a number of cases in which the Supreme Court has interpreted certain laws as violative of the concept of separation of powers and the laws were strike down. He said that bringing contracts to Parliament will limit the freedom of such contracts. He said that this will be an unnecessary clog on the powers of the executive.
Senator Farooq H. Naek said that the Parliament can make laws about how to implement the foreign agreements but cannot ratify the agreements. He called for making the required amendments in the bill. Senator Anwar ul Haq Kakar agreed to the point of view of the government while Senator Abdul Rehman Malik supported the bill. Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that in principle the bill is in good intention and the people through the Parliament need to know what contracts the government is entering into. Senator Sherry Rehman said that she supports the bill but she also believes that in order to get this through first a Constitutional Amendment is needed. She observed that we need to respond to the need of this bill. Senator Musadik Malik said that in a parliamentary democracy there is always an overlap in the powers of executive and legislature. He also said that the balance between transparency and expediency has also to be maintained. The Committee decided to discuss the bill further in the next meeting.
The Committee also discussed ‘The Islamabad High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2019 introduced by the Minister as a government bill calling for increasing the number of judges from seven to 10. The Minister observed that over time the Islamabad High Court has emerged as a court getting more and more cases and has evolved in different respects. He said that with more courts, the number of judges also needs to be increased to overcome the pendency in cases. Senator Farooq Naek said that the existing positions of judges are not filled entirely and increase in number will be of no use until all vacancies are also filled. The Committee chairman Javed Abbasi remarked that there should also be a decision on who can be appointed as a judge in Islamabad High Court. The Islamabad High Court Bar Council and Islamabad High Court Bar Association supported the bill but called for making the number of judges 11 instead of 10 and making it mandatory that the judges be from Islamabad.
The Committee members supported the increase in number and hence the bill but decided to pend passing the bill till the next meeting. The Minister gave a commitment to the Committee that the government will bring an amendment in the Islamabad High Court Act regarding bar on appointment of judges from areas other than Islamabad. The Committee in principle agreed with the amendment bill under discussion but asked the ministry to initiate the process for amendment in the High Court Act and bring the same in the next meeting before passing this bill.
The Committee also discussed ‘The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2018’ (fourth schedule) moved by Senator Syed Sabir Shah regarding uniform printing of Holy Quran in the whole country. The mover emphasized on the need of using better quality paper to reduce the damage of paper after long use of the Holy Quran. Members of the committee supported the essence and intent of the bill but observed that printing has always been a subsidiary subject and taking it away from provinces and having a central authority responsible for printing might not be a good idea. The Committee also heard Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology, ministry of religious affairs and provincial auqaf departments who told the meeting that the all provinces have passed their respective laws to ensure standard quality error free printing of Holy Quran. The Committee decided to take samples on the grammage of paper in the next meeting and the mover shall withdraw the bill on condition of satisfaction.
Regarding ‘The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2018’ (Amendment of Article 260) moved by Senator Naseebullah Bazai regarding removing 2 year ban of contesting elections on President and Governors was also discussed and the Committee decided to hear the provincial governments on the issue before taking any decision.
The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi here at the Parliament House on Thursday and was attended among others by Senators Farooq Hamid Naek, Dilawar Khan, Ayesha Raza Farooq, Musadik Malik, Sherry Rehman, Mian Raza Rabbani, Nuzhat Sadiq, Musahid Hussain, Dr. Shehzad Wasim, Abdul Rehman Malik, Anwar ul Haq Kakar, Naseebullah Bazai, Ghous Bakhsh Niazi, Mushahidullah Khan, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Syed Sabir Shah, Minister for Law and Justice Senator Farogh Naseem and officials from the ministry.