Cracks In 'Bandial Faction': Justice Rizvi's Verdict 'Taken Down' From SC Website

Cracks In 'Bandial Faction': Justice Rizvi's Verdict 'Taken Down' From SC Website
Under the helmsmanship of Chief Justice (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) has come under immense scrutiny. First, the apex court was questioned on the methods and choices of its most recent judicial appointments, and over the past few months, it has been widely castigated for the 'activist' approach it has adopted in keeping the scales of national politics tipped in favour of Imran Khan and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

For months, rumours have swirled that the apex court judges are 'divided' into factions of "like-minded" judges who are sympathetic to the incumbent CJP, and the rest who are disturbed by an obvious political slant of the supposedly unbiased judicature. It has even been reported that some apex court justices came to blows with each other, which was promptly refuted by an official SC press release, thereby lending further credence to the very rumours it attempted to quash.

The Supreme Court has a total sanctioned strength of 17, with two positions currently being vacant. In his latest vlog, Imran Waseem refers to prevalent rumours that of the total 15 apex court judges, 7 are said to be in the Justice Qazi Faez Isa faction while 8 are purportedly in CJP Bandial's faction. According to Waseem's sources, it is now emerging that the 'Bandial faction' is also suffering from internal rifts and discontentment, as one of the judges presumed to be in this faction has issued a verdict that was later removed from the Supreme Court website.

Presenting the context, Imran Waseem relates how the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) law of 2023 was challenged at the Supreme Court with surprising speed: the notification of the law had not been issued, but the stay order against it was issued on April 13 within an hour of the SC receiving petitions against it. "The courts ended any effect that the law had," Imran Waseem said. An eight-member larger bench of the SC was formed to hear this case, and Imran Waseem reports that all except one of the judges on that bench had issued remarks and asked questions from the litigants. The eighth judge ended his silence today, according to Imran Waseem who claims that the judge is believed to hail from the 'Bandial faction' of SC judges.

Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi issued an 8-page judgment today (May 27), which was later ordered to be removed from the Supreme Court website by CJP Umar Ata Bandial, as per journalist Imran Waseem. The most recent verdict of the apex court on its website is for constitutional petition no. 14/2023 dated May 26, as of the filing of this report. Imran Waseem also recalls judgments by Justice Isa and Justice Mandokhail, which were published on the SC website but later removed - or addressed via circulars - ostensibly on instructions from CJP Bandial.

Imran Waseem purports that four paragraphs - 14, 15, 16 and 17 - of this apparently contentious note by Justice Rizvi are of particular importance, with reference to the ongoing political polycrisis as well as the role that apex court judges can play for restoring stability.

In his judgment, Justice Rizvi urges that the superior courts should use judicial review with wisdom and restraint. In fact, he even puts a condition, that the Article 184(3) powers must not be used "with the spirit that parliament and judiciary end up in a confrontation". Justice Rizvi refers to the 2015 Imran Tiwana case, where an SC bench headed by then-CJP Saqib Nisar issued a verdict that superior courts should do their best to avoid complicated constitutional questions and endeavour to resolve political conflicts and civil disputes with "smaller points" or minutiae of case law and precedent.

Previously, it had been reported that cracks had emerged in the three-member SC bench that was hearing the Punjab elections case. According to reports, Justice Munib Akhtar had a falling out with his brother judges on that particular bench, Chief Justice Bandial and Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan.