“How can high courts take suo-motu notice,” CJP Gulzar

A week ago Supreme Court while hearing the case of under trial prisoners release to pre-empt the spread of virus in the prisons CJP Gulzar Ahmed questioned the powers of the high court to take suo-moto notice of the situation and held that this is the duty of the Government to make such policy and exercise it.

  The Supreme Court suspended the release of UTP and passes the order that any high court shall refrain from making any such further order to release the prisoners.

Earlier that week on 26 march, 2020 IHC took the suo- moto to release the under trial prisoners who were facing trial for minor offences to prevent the spread of coronavirus in prisons due to crowded and unhygienic situation of prisons in the country. This order if IHC was appreciated by PBC and SHBA and number of Human rights activists praised that decision of the IHC. However, Supreme Court suspended this order and stated that “It cannot happen that people start making decisions which are not within their jurisdiction during a crisis”

The situation got more interesting when this suo-moto power was exercised by Supreme court itself on 10 April,2020 to check the measures taken by the government against Coronavirus.

The apex court directed the federal government to file a comprehensive report regarding the situation and outcomes of the high level meetings of the government. The court stated a lot of reservations on the provinces measures and took notice of many other issues but they did really go far when the court order to remove the Special advisor to PM. Apex Court found that the performance of the SAPM Zafar Mirza is not satisfactory and should be removed. This order of the Supreme Court was criticized widely by public officials and number of lawyers as well. Senior Lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan publically stated that It is solely the PM discretion whom to appoint as his advisor. He also criticized the order while giving remarks that it is not a problem regarding any interpretation of law rather a medical problem and even though Supreme court hold vast powers but taking actions is the duty of the executive and policy makers.

The question here is that how the suo-moto of the High courts was unreasonable and just a week later became reasonable for the supreme court? This approach of the higher courts is confusing for the litigants as well as the lay person. Is that only Supreme Court has the authority to exercise the suo moto powers inherited through Article 184(3) of the constitution?

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