The government will propose an amendment that will revert the Supreme Court’s bench to a seven-member body, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters about the government’s proposed legislative agenda, Riffath told reporters that the change to the number of Supreme Court justices was a top priority for the government.
The amendment will be sent to parliament within the upcoming week, he said.
This is the fourth time the number of justices are being changed. When the interim Supreme Court was constituted under the 2008 constitution, the bench consisted of five justices. Two more were added when the Supreme Court was reconstituted in 2010.
The latest change saw the seven-member bench reduced to five. Under the change in 2014, parliament removed then chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Justice Ahmed Muuthasim Adnan from the bench.
The attorney general also announced a host of new amendments and laws that the government will be pushing for including laws that have already been enacted or bills that are already being debated in parliament.
A total of 201 new bills including amendments will be drafted by the government and 47 of them are high priority bills or amendments. These include amendments to the constitution, the Judicature Act, and the Judicial Service Commission Act.
There will also be amendments to decentralisation and independent institutions’ and judicial sections of the constitution and an amendment which will introduce anti-defection for parliamentarians.
The proposed new bills include 19 completely new laws, 160 amendments to existing laws and 36 amendments that will reform or abolish outdated laws.
The attorney general also highlighted amendments to the Judicial Service Commission Act, which is already being debated in parliament.
The new changes include the introduction of articles that will prevent courts from intervening in the processes of the judicial watchdog and the introduction of an appeals process for judges during disciplinary hearings. The Department of Judicial Administration, currently under the Supreme Court, will be moved under the JSC and will have the power to appoint registrars for courts. The JSC will also be given the power to appoint a chief judicial administrator under proposed amendments.
The new amendments will also overhaul the complaints submission and investigation process, so that complaints can be submitted via email and investigations can be fast-tracked.
The government also has plans to change the composition of the JSC after a study that is being undertaken with the help of foreign experts is submitted, Riffath said.
The JSC’s composition, which includes a host of politicians, has always been a contentious issue at home and abroad, with foreign experts blaming it for the politicisation of the judiciary.