Courts work for 24 hours, CJP says after Imran Khan’s criticism

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ISLAMABAD: Courts work for 24 hours, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial said Monday in response to former prime minister Imran Khan’s question on why the courts had to open at midnight on April 9 — the night he was ousted as the prime minister. No one needs to point a finger at the courts, CJP Bandial said during the hearing on a presidential reference seeking interpretation of Article 63A of the Constitution of Pakistan. The top judge said: “We don’t care about what is being said on social media; [we] are the protector of the Constitution”.A five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court — headed by Justice Bandial and comprising Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Aijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel — had resumed hearing the reference on Monday. During the hearing, the CJP Bandial said that the SC expects political leaders to defend judicial orders in public. The remark came in response to former prime minister Imran Khan’s recent criticism of the courts. The apex court was also hearing PTI Chairman and ex-premier Imran Khan’s plea seeking to declare dissident party members ineligible for life. PTI’s lawyer Babar Awan requested the court issue notices to the respondents of the case. At this, CJP Bandial asked Awan to present his case first, saying that the notices will be issued afterwards. During the hearing, the Islamabad Advocate-General Niaz Ullah Khan Niazi contended that lifelong ineligibility should be awarded over defection. He asked the court to rule early, keeping the situation in Punjab and Centre in view. “Parliament hasn’t included lifelong disqualification in Article 63A,” Justice Mandokhel remarked, asking if Parliament deliberately avoided including the lifelong disqualification in Article 63A or by mistake. Justice Mandokhel noted that half of the people would comply with the apex court’s order and half won’t as some of them favour lifelong disqualification and some are against it. “Why do you want the SC to decide this when there is Parliament?” he asked. At this, CJP Bandial remarked that his fellow judge’s stance is clear. “Why should we announce the verdicts when 10-15 thousand people start criticising judicial orders […] why should the court take part in your political debates.” “We expect political leaders to defend judicial orders in public,” CJP Bandial remarked, adding that protecting and ensuring the rule of law is the court’s responsibility. In his arguments, Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s counsel Mustafa Ramday said that the president, in his reference, asked the court to rewrite the Constitution. The government did nothing for the “audio and video” issue mentioned in the presidential reference, he added.

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