18th Amendment: SC orders Article 175-A back to parliament

The apex court in its decision ordered that Article 175-A, detailing the amendments to the procedure of appointing superior court judges, be sent back to the parliament for review.“Parliament is asked to review Article 175-A, for it has harmed judiciary’s freedom,” Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry stated, adding that consultation with the chief justice was necessary for the appointment of judges.It is significant to note that the apex court decided to send Article 175-A back to the parliament for reconsideration instead of striking it down.“To enable the parliament to proceed and re-examine the matter in terms of the observations made above, these petitions are adjourned to a date in the last week of January 2011,” said the order signed by the 17 Supreme Court judges.Earlier, a 17-judge full court had on September 30 reserved its verdict after over four months of hearing on petitions challenging various aspects of the 18th Amendment, including the mechanism approved by parliament for appointment of superior court judges.Twenty-two petitions challenging the amendment’s clauses had been filed in the Supreme Court.The bench had started hearing the petitions on May 24 and discussed threadbare all aspects of the amendment, especially Article 175-A, which, according to the petitioners, impinges on the independence of judiciary.

The petitions also challenged the renaming of the NWFP as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which, it was argued, would result in dividing the national polity on linguistic and ethnic lines, deletion of Article 17(4) relating to elections in political parties and insertion of Article 63-A empowering heads of parties to have a final say in case of defections.The decision to announce the verdict was taken after a number of conclaves held by the judges on the bench to exchange points of view on the proceedings which were closed last month – Dawn