CJ holds cards close to his chest


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ISLAMABAD: With just under three weeks left until his retirement, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial continues to keep some cards close to his chest as speculation abounds on whether he will provide any respite to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its leadership during the limited period.

However, much depends on the support he receives from other judges, particularly when it comes to taking on cases that may ruffle the feathers of “powerful circles.”

While Justice Bandial could not rescue the PTI leadership during their most challenging moments, he has managed to sustain hope for their supporters in several critical matters over the past year.

Today, a three-judge special bench led by CJP Bandial himself will resume hearing PTI Chief Imran Khan’s petition challenging the amendments in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.

The CJP has made it clear that he intends to deliver his judgement on this matter before his retirement. Over 45 hearings of the case have taken place thus far.

In addition, another three-judge special bench, led by Chief Justice Bandial, will decide the outcome of Imran Khan’s plea to suspend his conviction in the Toshakhana case. The bench is currently hearing Imran Khan’s petitions against the trial court’s interim orders.

The case holds significant importance for Imran Khan’s parliamentary politics, as it is the only one that led to his disqualification for the next five years.

Lawyers now question whether the superior courts can overturn his conviction before the next general elections.

Similarly, if the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspends the former prime minister’s conviction, there is a possibility that he may be arrested in another case.

Recently, Imran Khan, through his legal team, moved a constitution petition seeking relief in all criminal cases where his bails were rejected on technical grounds, but the petition was returned by the SC Registrar on the basis of multiple objections. Should CJP Bandial decide to revisit this petition, Imran Khan may find some relief.

A six-member larger bench of the apex court led by CJP Bandial can give rulings on different petitions challenging the trial of civilians in military courts under the Army Act.

Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Abid Zuberi’s petition for holding the general elections within 90 days has been entertained by the SC Registrar office. However, it is yet to be fixed. This matter can be fixed for hearing during the tenure of CJP Bandial.

A three-judge special bench led by CJP Bandial has yet to resume the hearing of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) review petition against the court’s judgement wherein it was held that elections of the Punjab Assembly would be conducted on May 14.

A special bench led by the outgoing chief justice has yet to issue a judgement in the audio leaks commission case. Similarly, a detailed judgement against Dost Mazari’s ruling is still awaited.

Moreover, since April 13, CJP Bandial has been running affairs of the apex court on a stay order in the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act 2023 case. No final judgement has been given on the fate of the Act where discretionary powers of the chief justice to form benches and fix cases are regulated by a committee.

CJP Bandial could not fulfil the strength of the Supreme Court judges during his tenure. One seat is still vacant.

believe that there is less chance that CJP Bandial may take these cases to the logical end, arguing that only a united SC could grant a powerful judgement.

It is better that CJP Bandial should leave these matters to the next CJP for decisions, they said.

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