Raising Supreme Court strength will weaken it: expert

June 21st, 2008 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, June 21 (IANS) A noted constitutional expert has warned against increasing the strength of the Pakistani Supreme Court, saying it would weaken the institution. “Leave the question of the PCO judges’ adjustment aside. The very increase in the number of the Supreme Court judges is simply unacceptable,” The News Saturday quoted Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim as saying.

President Pervez Musharraf, while imposing an emergency last November, had sacked the entire Supreme Court bench after the judges refused to take fresh oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) that he also promulgated. A new set of judges was thereafter sworn in under the PCO.

The reinstatement of the sacked judges has become the bone of contention between the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which heads the ruling coalition that came to power after the February general elections, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The PPP initially backed the restoration of the sacked judges but then backtracked, saying this would be part of a package to restore the constitution to what existed in 1973.

This prompted the PML-N to pull its nine ministers out of the government even as it continued to be a coalition partner.

Now, it seems, the PML-N has agreed to a compromise under which the sacked judges would be restored while the existing bench would continue.

The first indication of this was the statement of Finance Minister Syed Naveed Qamar, while presenting the budget for fiscal 2008-09, that the strength of the Supreme Court would be raised from the present 16 to 29.

Then, after a meeting Friday between PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, PML-N leader Khawaja Asif announced that his party would support the finance bill in its entirety.

“Don’t doubt our intentions,” Sharif replied cryptically when asked to comment on the issue.

Ebrahim maintained that raising the Supreme Court strength would “kick off new controversies”.

He said that since it would not be possible to seat all the 29 judges in Islamabad, Supreme Court benches might be set up in the four provincial capitals - and this would dilute its authority.

“Ebrahim did not approve such an arrangement, arguing that it would weaken the Supreme Court,” The News said.

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