Pakistan’s government recently enacted a significant law that grants individuals the right of appeal against convictions by the Supreme Court under its original jurisdiction. This development has potentially created an opportunity for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to challenge his disqualification, which took place in 2017. Previously, Sharif was unable to file an appeal due to the absence of a law enabling such challenges against judgments from the top judiciary. However, with the signing of the Supreme Court (Review of Judgements and Orders) Bill, 2023 by President Arif Alvi, the right of appeal under Article 184 of the Constitution has been introduced, offering a new legal avenue for individuals to challenge court decisions, including past verdicts.
The newly enacted law applies retrospectively, meaning it also applies to past judgments, including Sharif’s disqualification in 2017. Under the law, the scope of review for judgments made by the Supreme Court under Article 184 will be equivalent to that of an appeal under Article 185 of the Constitution, encompassing both factual and legal considerations. Furthermore, the law stipulates that for reviewing suo motu judgments, a larger bench will be convened, ensuring a comprehensive examination of the case.
The legal community, including the former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Amanullah Kanrani, has welcomed the new law, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding the fundamental right to justice. Kanrani believes that Nawaz Sharif can now avail himself of the opportunity to challenge his disqualification within the 60-day timeframe stipulated by the law.
However, there are voices of opposition as well. Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar argues that Sharif cannot benefit from the law since he had already filed a review against his conviction, which was subsequently rejected. Gohar Khan, a lawyer representing Imran Khan, alleges that the law is an attempt to interfere with the judiciary’s affairs and predicts that it will be challenged.
The enactment of the Supreme Court (Review of Judgements and Orders) Bill, 2023 in Pakistan has introduced the right of appeal against convictions under the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction. This development holds significant implications, particularly for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was previously disqualified without the opportunity to appeal. While the legal community views the law as a positive step towards ensuring the fundamental right to justice, there are concerns and controversies surrounding its implementation. As the law comes into effect, it remains to be seen how it will impact the future of legal challenges and the judiciary’s role in Pakistan.