Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Pakistan is the highest court of appeal in the country and a court where all other avenues have been exhausted. It is the final authority on legal and constitutional matters. Its orders and decisions also affect other courts in the country. All administrative and judicial bodies are likely to act with the assistance of the Supreme Court. The constitution defines in detail the establishment, jurisdiction, powers, and functions of the Supreme Court. Closely related are the requirements and manner of appointment of judges, the time of retirement, the grounds and manner of dismissal, and the conditions of employment of judges.


The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction, appellate jurisdiction, and investigative jurisdiction. It has original jurisdiction to decide intergovernmental questions between the federal and state governments or between state governments. Under this power, the Supreme Court makes final decisions. The Supreme Court may also exercise original jurisdiction over the granting of fundamental rights where the issue is of public interest. The Supreme Court also exercises the power of caveat emptor, whereby the President may seek the opinion of the Supreme Court on a question of law. The Supreme Court, by its appellate jurisdiction, decides appeals from orders and decisions of the High Courts and other individual courts.

How is the Supreme Court constituted?

The constitution provides for the autonomy of the judiciary and its separation from the executive branch. The Constitution imposes an unprecedented duty on the Supreme Court to maintain harmony and coordination among the three pillars of government: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. As the guardian of the Constitution, the Supreme Court must preserve, protect and defend this important document.

The Supreme Court was created by the 1956 constitution as the successor to the Union Court of India, created in 1948, which replaced the Union Court of India, created in 1937. The Supreme Court, established in 1956, has retained its name and jurisdiction since the promulgation of the constitution in 1973 and other legal developments.

The Constitution of 1956

The 1956 constitution provided that the seat of the Supreme Court would be in Karachi and that the Chief Justice of Pakistan could be elected elsewhere with the approval of the President. The Supreme Court was initially located in Karachi, but was later moved to Lahore and installed in the Supreme Court building; the 1973 constitution established the permanent seat of the court in Islamabad. However, lack of funds hampered construction: in 1974, the court was moved from Lahore to Rawalpindi and housed in a propaganda building called East Pakistan House; in 1989, funds were allocated for a new building in Islamabad and construction began in 1990. The construction was completed and on December 31, 1993, the Tribunal moved into its new headquarters in Islamabad.

The existing building

The present building stands majestically as an extension of Constitution Avenue in the federal capital. Its white marble exterior is a testament to the strength of the institution, which upholds the law and order of the country as well as constitutional norms. The open facade is a blend of Islamic and Japanese architectural traditions and emphasizes the importance of education, transparency, and equality before the law, recognized goals of the judiciary in Pakistan. The court also has branches at its headquarters in each of the four provinces. Cases are registered in the registers of the headquarters and the branches. The judges of the Tribunal deal with cases alternately at the seat and the branches. Given the breadth of the Court's jurisdiction, easy and quick access to a court close to home is an exceptional way to attract litigants.

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