Thursday April 07, 2022

SC Declares Deputy Speaker Ruling Unconstitutional, Restore No Confidence Motion

Islamabad: Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared Deputy Speaker National Assembly ruling of rejection of a no-confidence motion as unconstitutional.

The SC in its verdict restored PM, National Assembly and Ministers while annulling the dissolution of the NA.

The SC ordered that the lower house session should be called on Saturday April 9 at 10:30 am and hold voting on a no confidence motion and dispose of the no-confidence motion as early as possible.

If the no-confidence motion gets successful then hold an elections in the NA for new premier.

The SC in its verdict said that Speaker NA can not postpone the session until voting on the confidence motion. The top court also declared President decision to dissolve the assembly on the advice of the premier.

The verdict said that the government can’t stop any member for voting of the no-confidence motion.

Chief Justice said that it is a unanimous decision of all the five judges of the larger bench which has been taken after consultation.

The SC verdict annulled all the measures to establish an interim government.

Earlier, a larger bench headed by Chief Justice (CJ) Supreme Court Of Pakistan (SC) Umar Atta Bandiyal, comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Mandokhel reserved the verdict.

The bench resumed hearing the suo motu case concerning the legality of the deputy speaker’s ruling and the subsequent dissolution of the NA by the president on the PM’s advice.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial said that it was clear that the April 3 ruling of National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, which dismissed the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, was erroneous.

“The real question at hand is what happens next,” he said, adding that now the PML-N counsel and the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan would guide the court on how to proceed.

“We have to look at national interest,” he said, adding that the court would issue a verdict today.

In anticipation of the verdict, security has been beefed up at the SC premises. Television footage showed riot police deployed outside the apex court.

The AGP, while giving arguments, claimed that the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan was “dismissed” on March 28, when leave was granted to table the resolution. According to him, it was important to show the support of majority at the time of tabling the resolution.

Since the opposition had 161 members in favour of tabling the motion on March 28, the AGP said the move had failed then and there.

Justice Akhtar replied that according to this line of argument, if 172 members (majority) had approved the motion, the prime minister would have been ousted. To this, the AGP said the three to seven days mandated by the Constitution before a final vote on the resolution was to give the prime minister a chance to win back angry lawmakers.

However, the CJP, at this point, said that at the leave grant stage 172 members were not required. “They are required at the time of the voting.”

He then added that if the speaker approved the resolution on March 28, then “it’s the end of the topic,” noting that the speaker’s counsel said his ruling can’t be reviewed.

If that’s the case, the AGP said, then the case is over since on April 3, the same speaker passed the ruling to dismiss the motion.

But Justice Bandial said that he wanted to hear from the AGP on the main issue which was dissolution of the National Assembly.

“The assembly was dissolved only after the no-confidence motion was dealt with,” Khan said.

We have to see, the CJP said, the time difference between dissolving the assembly and the ruling of the speaker. Here, Justice Mandokhel said that the court could not decide on the basis of circumstances and results.

“Court has to pass a verdict keeping the Constitution in view,” the judge said. “This way … any speaker who comes tomorrow will do as he pleases.”

The AGP, at this point, said that he wasn’t defending the speaker’s ruling. “My concern for now are the new elections.”

Earlier, AGP Khan — who was the last to give his arguments — began by informing the court that he would not be able to give details of the recent meeting of the National Security Committee in an open courtroom. He asserted that the court could issue an order without questioning anyone’s loyalty.

He argued that prime minister was the “biggest stakeholder” and, therefore, had the power to dissolve the NA. “The prime minister does not need to give reasons for dissolving the assembly,” the AGP contended.

He also pointed out that the assembly would stand dissolved if the president did not make a decision on the prime minister’s advice within 48 hours.

He argued that voting on the no-confidence motion was not the fundamental right of a lawmaker.

“The right to vote is subject to the Constitution and assembly rules,” Khan said. He also pointed out that if the NA speaker suspends a member, they cannot approach a court against it.

“Are you trying to say that voting on the no confidence motion is subject to the rules,” the CJP asked, to which the AGP replied that all proceedings, including the no-confidence motion, were carried out in accordance with the rules.

The AGP said that there was no “firewall” that gave complete immunity to parliamentary proceedings. “The court will decide the extent to which parliamentary proceedings can be reviewed,” he said. The AGP pointed out that the court could intervene if the speaker declared a person with the minority number of votes to be the prime minister.

At this, Justice Akhtar remarked that the speaker was the caretaker of the house. “The speaker is not there for his personal satisfaction. The speaker can’t just give his opinion and ignore the members,” he observed.

The AGP replied by saying that political parties play an important role in a parliamentary system of government. However, he pointed out that it was the assembly that had a term limit, not its members. “One individual has the power to dissolve the assembly.”
During the hearing, Justice Mandokhel said that even though Suri announced the April 3 ruling which dismissed the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, it was signed by Speaker Asad Qaiser.

He made the observation as Suri and Qaiser’s lawyer, Naeem Bukhari, presented his arguments.

Responding to the judge’s statement, Bukhari replied that perhaps the documents given to him might not be “original”.

Justice Mandokhel also pointed out that the minutes of the parliamentary committee meeting, which were submitted to court by Bukhari, didn’t prove if the deputy speaker was present.

Continuing, Justice Mandokhel asked whether the foreign minister was present during the parliamentary committee meeting, noting that his signature was not included in the record.

“Shouldn’t the foreign minister have been present?” the judge asked, which prompted the lawyer to admit the minister should have been present.

At this, CJP Bandial pointed out that the name of the national security adviser at the time, Moeed Yusuf, was also not included in the record.

Bukhari began his arguments by stating that he would focus on whether a point of order could be discussed at any time. He argued that the apex court had refrained from interfering in parliamentary proceedings in the past and asked whether the court would have taken notice if the speaker had dismissed Fawad Chaudhry’s point of order.

“When assemblies were dissolved in the past, the election process was not stopped even though it was declared unconstitutional,” he said, asserting that the speaker could reject the no-trust move on a point of order. “This has never happened before but the speaker has the power [to do so].”

He said that the former minister had requested a point of order as soon as the session had began. “The point of order couldn’t have been taken up had voting on the no-confidence motion started,” he said.

Justice Mandokhel asked which law stated that the speaker had the power to dismiss the no-confidence motion. “We want to understand the definition of a point of order,” he said.

“The question is whether a new point of order can be taken up once the no-confidence motion is introduced,” the CJP said. Justice Akhtar also asked if the point of order was included in the day’s agenda.

However, Bukhari replied that a point of order could be raised at any time.

“Voting on the no-confidence motion is a constitutional requirement,” Justice Mandokhail pointed out. Can the rules be used to invalidate the constitutional right to vote, he wondered.

“Shouldn’t the opposition have been given a chance to [respond] to the point of order?” the CJP further asked, to which the lawyer replied that it could not be debated.

Bukhari also presented the minutes of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, during which contents of the ‘threat letter’ were shared with parliamentarians.

Talking about the briefing given to the committee, Bukhari said that the NA body was told that there would be consequences if the no-trust motion failed.

During today’s hearing, Senator Ali Zafar, the president’s counsel, was asked by Justice Miankhel if the prime minister was the people’s representative. The lawyer replied in the affirmative.

Justice Miankhel then inquired if the premier would be protected if the Constitution was violated in parliament. “Is Parliament not the guardian of the Constitution?” he asked. He also questioned how justice would be awarded in case someone is affected due to parliamentary proceedings.

At this, Zafar replied that the Constitution must be protected in accordance with the rules it underlines. He said that in order to protect the Constitution, each and every article had to be kept in mind.

Justice Bandial then asked what would happen when an injustice was carried out against the entire assembly, not just one member.

“Can Parliament interfere if there’s a conflict between judges,” Zafar offered as a counter argument. “The answer is no. The judiciary has to settle the matter. It can’t interfere just like Parliament can’t [interfere in judges’ matters].”

The CJP also asked whether the formation of the federal government was an “internal matter” of Parliament.

Zafar said that the no-confidence motion and the prime minister’s election fell within the ambit of Parliament. He said that the National Assembly is formed for the purpose of appointing a speaker and a prime minister.

He also referred to former PM Mohammad Khan Junejo’s case, who was dismissed by ex-president Gen Ziaul Haq. “Junejo’s government was dissolved and the court declared it unconstitutional,” Zafar pointed out, adding that the court did not interfere in actions taken after the dissolution of the assembly.

However, Justice Miankhel said that the matter at present concerned the no-confidence motion. “A ruling came after the motion. Address this issue,” he told Zafar. CJP Bandial also said that the verdict he was referring to was related to the oath. “Here the matter is about the ruling, not the oath. We have to draw a line somewhere.”

However, Zafar argued that in this case too elections were announced after dissolving the assembly.

At one point, the CJP asked Zafar why he wasn’t explaining whether or not there was a constitutional crisis in the country. “If everything is happening according to the Constitution, where is the crisis?” he asked.

Zafar replied that he was also saying the same and there was no constitutional crisis in the country.

The CJP also observed that there seemed to be a violation of Article 95. He noted that holding elections cost the nation “billions of rupees”.

However, Zafar argued that the announcement of the election showed there was no malice behind the government’s move.

Justice Mandokhel questioned whether the prime minister could still advise the president to dissolve the assembly if a majority of the members were opposed to it.

Justice Ahsan noted that the PTI still held the majority despite the recent defections. “But what if the majority party is ousted from the system?” he wondered.

Zafar replied that the president’s counsel couldn’t comment on political matters and ended his arguments.

The lawyer for interim Prime Minister Imran Khan, Imtiaz Siddiqui, began by pointing out that the judiciary had not interfered in parliamentary proceedings in the past.

“The matter at hand concerns NA proceedings. [But] NA proceedings lie beyond the judiciary’s jurisdiction,” he argued, urging the court to tell parliament to settle its own matters. He said that the opposition had not objected to the deputy speaker chairing the session.

“The deputy speaker made a decision according to what he thought was best,” Siddiqui contended, adding that the deputy speaker wasn’t accountable to the court for the ruling he gave. He reiterated that under Article 69, the apex court could not interfere in parliamentary proceedings.

Justice Akhtar noted that verdicts referenced concerned observations made by the courts. “The court is not bound by the observations given in the verdicts,” he said.

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