Press Release – Seminar Article 10A & Suo-Motu Jurisdiction

February 14, 2014 SOL-Blog


The School of Law hosted a seminar on “The Scope of Article 10-A of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 and Suo-Motu Jurisdiction”, on 29th January’ 2014.

The seminar aimed to focus on the meaning and scope of fair trial and due process of law, the implications of Article 10-A on the legal system, Suo-Motu jurisdiction in Pakistan and whether right to fair trial is a procedural or substantive right.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Ali Sultan, Executive Director of the Research Society of International Law and Constitutional Law Expert. Dr. Sultan began his speech by focusing on Article 184 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 and offered a critical evaluation of Suo-Motu jurisdiction. He laid stress on the concepts of “public importance” and “fundamental rights”.   Highlighting the history of Suo-Motu jurisdiction, Dr. Sultan contended the extended use of this article in recent years and how this has led to a delay in delivering judgments on pending cases. This expansive use, in Dr. Sultan’s opinion has also been detrimental to the “Rule of Law”. Citing a number of cases, that did not fulfill the “public importance” and “fundamental right” definitions, he stated that Suo-Motu jurisdiction needs to be used restrictively and the court hierarchy needs to be observed. Quoting the situation in India, he stated that Pakistan must lay down guidelines to define the use of the Suo-Motu jurisdiction and the Supreme Court must return to its former form as an appellate court.

Dr. Sultan went on to discuss Article 10-A of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973. He discussed the “right to fair trial” as envisaged under rules of international law and drew a comparison with the concept of “jury trial” in the United States.

After Mr. Sultan’s address, our in-house faculty member and Programme Director (University of Punjab LL.B) at School of Law, Mr. Muhammad Atif Nazir, began his speech by focusing on the meaning of the term Suo-Motu and went on to discuss the benefits of Suo-Motu jurisdiction. In this way, he took a completely opposite view from that of Mr. Sultan giving the audience an opportunity to be presented with both sides of the picture. Mr. Nazir was of the opinion that Suo-Motu jurisdiction provided speedy justice, effective and cheaper justice. Mr. Nazir referred to a number of cases such as the Hajj Corruption case, The Bank of Punjab Case, and Pakistan Steel Mills Case and stated that in addressing these issues the Supreme Court established itself as an independent organ of the state. Mr. Nazir proceeded to the right to fair trial as established under Article 10-A of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 and made reference to a number of foreign cases which establish this right as a fundamental right. Mr. Nazir also differentiated between ordinary rights and fundamental rights by relying on foreign jurisdiction and proceeded to shedding light on the history of the right to fair trial in Pakistan as fostered through case Law and the Constitution of Pakistan 1973. Mr. Nazir concluded by addressing a number of issues pertinent to Suo-Motu jurisdiction and the powers of the courts in exercising this jurisdiction.

Our next guest speaker, Ms. Maira Sheikh attained her Juris Doctor from the University of Notre Dame in the United States. She is currently working as a senior research fellow at Research Society of International Law, Pakistan. She discussed the jurisdiction and role of the Supreme Court and the court hierarchy in the US. Ms. Sheikh also shed light on the working of the Supreme Court. In drawing a comparison with Pakistan’s Suo-Motu jurisdiction, she referred to the 5th and 6th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.  Ms. Sheikh also discussed the concepts of procedural due process and substantive due process and the 2-tier analysis approach to fundamental rights in the United States of America.

Lastly, Mr. Ehsan Chughtai, Chairman, School of Law and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales discussed the “right to fair trial” as envisaged under Article 10-A of the Constitution of Pakistan. He drew a comparison with the availability of “Hansard” in the United Kingdom in order to understand the Parliament’s approach for the enactment. Mr. Chughtai also differentiated between substantive and procedural due process. He went on to discuss the concept of “Rule of law” as applied in the United Kingdom. “Due Process” is guaranteed through the Human Rights Act 1998 as Section 6 (1) of the Human Rights Act 1998  requires the public authorities to interpret domestic legislation in line with rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. While discussing the Suo Motu Jurisdiction in Pakistan, Mr. Chughtai compared it with Judicial Review and its limited application in the United Kingdom. He went on to compare Article 10-A of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 with Section 6 (1) of the Human Rights Act 1998, and that a similar provision can alter the approach of the court system in Pakistan, as Section 6 (1)  of the Human Rights Act 1998 has in the United Kingdom.

The seminar ended in a question-answer session with the participants raising questions pertaining to the court activism and socio-political situation in Pakistan.

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