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The Pakistan Supreme Court: Upholding Justice and the Rule of Law

pakistan supreme court

pakistan supreme court

The Pakistan Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in the country, responsible for interpreting the constitution and ensuring the rule of law. Established in 1949, the court has played a crucial role in shaping the legal landscape of Pakistan and safeguarding the rights of its citizens. This article explores the history, structure, and functions of the Pakistan Supreme Court, highlighting its significant contributions to the country’s legal system.

The History of the Pakistan Supreme Court

The Pakistan Supreme Court traces its roots back to the colonial era when the British established the Federal Court of India in 1937. After the partition of India in 1947, Pakistan emerged as an independent nation, and the Federal Court of India was renamed the Federal Court of Pakistan. In 1956, with the promulgation of the first constitution of Pakistan, the Federal Court was transformed into the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Over the years, the Pakistan Supreme Court has witnessed several landmark cases that have shaped the legal framework of the country. One such case is the famous Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan vs. Federation of Pakistan (1955), where the court declared the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by the Governor-General unconstitutional, establishing the principle of judicial review in Pakistan.

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The Structure of the Pakistan Supreme Court

The Pakistan Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and a maximum of 16 judges, appointed by the President of Pakistan. The Chief Justice is appointed by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The judges are selected based on their legal expertise, integrity, and experience.

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The court operates through a two-tier system, comprising the Supreme Court and the High Courts. The Supreme Court is the apex court, while the High Courts are subordinate to it. The High Courts are located in each of the four provinces of Pakistan, namely Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan.

Functions of the Pakistan Supreme Court

The Pakistan Supreme Court has several key functions, including:

  • Interpreting the Constitution: The court is responsible for interpreting the constitution and ensuring its implementation. It has the power to strike down any law or government action that is deemed unconstitutional.
  • Protection of Fundamental Rights: The court safeguards the fundamental rights of the citizens, such as the right to life, liberty, and equality. It acts as a guardian of these rights and can take suo moto notice of any violation.
  • Judicial Review: The court exercises the power of judicial review, allowing it to review the actions of the executive and legislative branches of the government. This ensures that the government functions within the limits set by the constitution.
  • Appellate Jurisdiction: The Supreme Court serves as the highest appellate court in the country, hearing appeals from the High Courts and other specialized tribunals.
  • Constitutional Petitions: The court entertains constitutional petitions filed by individuals or organizations, addressing issues related to constitutional interpretation, fundamental rights, and public interest matters.
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Landmark Cases and Contributions

The Pakistan Supreme Court has made significant contributions to the legal system of the country through its landmark judgments. Some notable cases include:

1. The Case of Asma Jilani vs. Government of the Punjab (1972)

In this case, the court held that the suspension of fundamental rights during a state of emergency is unconstitutional. The judgment reaffirmed the court’s commitment to protecting the fundamental rights of the citizens, even in challenging circumstances.

2. The Case of Benazir Bhutto vs. President of Pakistan (1998)

This case dealt with the dismissal of the then Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, by the President of Pakistan. The court declared the dismissal unconstitutional, emphasizing the importance of due process and the rule of law in the country.

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3. The Case of Maulvi Iqbal Haider vs. Federation of Pakistan (2010)

In this case, the court declared the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) unconstitutional, which granted amnesty to politicians and bureaucrats accused of corruption. The judgment highlighted the court’s commitment to combating corruption and upholding accountability.

Q&A

1. How are judges appointed to the Pakistan Supreme Court?

Judges of the Pakistan Supreme Court are appointed by the President of Pakistan, in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The selection is based on the candidate’s legal expertise, integrity, and experience.

2. What is the role of the Pakistan Supreme Court in protecting fundamental rights?

The Pakistan Supreme Court acts as a guardian of fundamental rights, ensuring their protection and enforcement. It can take suo moto notice of any violation and has the power to strike down any law or government action that is deemed unconstitutional.

3. Can the Pakistan Supreme Court review the actions of the executive and legislative branches of the government?

Yes, the Pakistan Supreme Court exercises the power of judicial review, allowing it to review the actions of the executive and legislative branches of the government. This ensures that the government functions within the limits set by the constitution.

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4. What is the significance of the Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan vs. Federation of Pakistan case?

The Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan vs. Federation of Pakistan case is significant as it established the principle of judicial review in Pakistan. The court declared the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by the Governor-General unconstitutional, asserting the court’s power to review the actions of the government.

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5. How does the Pakistan Supreme Court contribute to combating corruption?

The Pakistan Supreme Court plays a crucial role in combating corruption by upholding accountability and transparency. It has taken several steps to address corruption, such as declaring amnesty schemes unconstitutional and ensuring fair investigations and trials in corruption cases.

Summary

The Pakistan Supreme Court serves as the guardian of justice and the rule of law in the country. With its power of judicial review, the court ensures that the government functions within the limits set by the constitution. It protects the fundamental rights of the citizens and upholds accountability and transparency. Through its landmark judgments, the court has made significant contributions to the legal system of Pakistan. The Pakistan Supreme Court continues to play a vital role in shaping the legal landscape of the country and safeguarding the rights of its citizens.

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