ISLAMABAD: He defied court verdicts for over two years. Mocked the apex court in his public speeches. Supremely confident of his parliamentary superiority, he repeatedly threw the gauntlet at the Supreme Court. But Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s aggressive political innings came to an abrupt legal end on Tuesday when, upholding the April 26th contempt of court guilty verdict of the seven-member bench, the Supreme Court disqualified the prime minister from being a member of parliament and the prime minister of the country.
With the PM’s sacking, the federal cabinet automatically stands dissolved as well.A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heard identical petitions, challenging the National Assembly speaker’s ruling whereby she had refused to forward the PM’s disqualification reference to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The court in its short order directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to immediately issue the notification for the disqualification of Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani from being a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament) with effect from April 26, 2012.
Following the SC verdict, Gilani reportedly drove to the president house for an all-important meeting of the ruling party and its allies without flying the national flag or the PM’s insignia on his official vehicle. Only recently, while speaking in the National Assembly, Gilani had said that if the court disqualified him, nobody would need to show him the way back to his home town Multan.
A seven-member bench of the apex court had on April 26, 2012 found former premier Gilani guilty of contempt of Court under Article 204(2) of the Constitution, read with section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 and had sentenced him to undergo imprisonment till the rising of the Court under section 5 of the said Ordinance.
“Since no appeal was filed against this judgment, the conviction has attained finality therefore, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani has become disqualified from being a Member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in terms of Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution on and from the date and time of pronouncement of the judgment of this Court of April 26, 2012 with all consequences, i.e. he has also ceased to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan with effect from the said date and the office of the Prime Minister shall be deemed to be vacant accordingly,” the court announced in its short order.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir and Barrister Aitizaz Ahsen, counsel for Premier Gilani were conspicuous by their absence in the jam-packed courtroom when the Chief Justice announced the short order.
The court also observed that the President of Pakistan was required to take necessary steps under the Constitution to ensure the continuation of the democratic process through the parliamentary system of government in the country.
The short order further ruled that this Court in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan is competent to ensure enforcement of the fundamental rights of the citizens in all matters of public importance.
It further held that the Speaker of the National Assembly under Article 63(2) of the Constitution exercises powers, which are not covered by the definition of internal proceedings of Majlis-e-Shoora. Therefore, it ruled that in exercise of power of judicial review, is not debarred from inquiring into the order of May 25, 2012.
Earlier, during the hearing Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry remarked that had the Prime Minister filed an appeal against his conviction in the apex court, his matter of disqualification could probably have lasted for quite some time. His remark is bound to stay with the sacked prime minister for a long time, as he must be mulling over the quality of legal advice rendered by the likes of Aitzaz Ahsan and Irfan Qadir.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir mostly relied on his previous arguments and contended that the seven-member bench while convicting Premier Gillani had gone beyond of its jurisdiction and termed the decision of the apex court as a violation of Article 248 of the Constitution. He then read out a resolution in the court, passed by the National Assembly in support of the Speaker’s ruling.
During the course of proceedings, the AG contended that Speaker National Assembly represents the whole nation, adding that the decision of the court could lead to. clash between the judiciary and legislature arguing that a clash among the institutions must be avoided.
Upon hearing this, the Chief Justice replied that the court respected the Parliament and that there would never be a clash among the institutions. “We are sitting here to protect the dignity of the institutions”, the Chief Justice remarked.
Justice Khilji Arif Hussain observed that their job is to block all those measures that lead to a clash with the constitution and law. The AG however, insisted that the Parliament can declare the orders of the apex court null and void. He reiterated his previous argument that the seven-member bench had convicted the Premier under the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003, which does not even exist anymore.
AG recalled that on July 10, 2003, Contempt of Court Ordinance was promulgated but it stood repealed in November 2003, adding that another Contempt of Court Ordinance came in on December 15, 2003, which too was repealed and in 2004, another Contempt of Court Ordinance was promulgated. By this order earlier Ordinances of Contempt of Court stood altered, the AG contended.
He further submitted that the seven-member bench decision was an outright violation of the constitution. At this the Chief Justice pointedly asked him that being the principal law officer, he should assist the court on legal grounds, instead of favoring any party. The AG retorted that that he was arguing in accordance with the law.
Later, after the AG concluded his arguments, the court asked the petitioner’s counsel to argue in rebuttal at which A K Dogar, counsel for the Petitioner Azhar Siddique, contended that in a democracy the citizens of the country have a stake, and hence the issue of his fundamental rights in this particular instance. He contended that being a citizen, it was his right that there should be an independent judiciary that could provide speedy justice to the citizens. The learned counsel contended that as his fundamental right has been affected hence, his petition was maintainable.
Hamid Khan, counsel for the petitioner Imran Khan also gave arguments in his rebuttal saying that the speaker National Assembly had obstructed the order of the apex court while refusing to send the reference to Election Commission of Pakistan pertaining to disqualification of Prime Minister.
During the hearing, the Chief Justice remarked that the Speaker should have sent her point of view while sending a reference to the Election Commission. The Chief Justice further said that the Speaker has jurisdiction on other matters but not on court orders. “Whether the Executive is empowered to scrutinise the decision of the seven-member bench, if so then what will the status of the independence of judiciary be,” the Chief Justice commented. The Chief Justice further observed that no court except the appellate court could review a judicial ruling, adding that no one could wipe away a judicial ruling.
Muhammad Azhar Siddique, Pakistan tehrik Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan, PML-N leaders Khawaja Asif and Syed Zafar Ali Shah, S. Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi , Ch. Khalid Farooq, Shahid Naseem Gondal, Ch. M. Asghar Saroha Lahore High Court Bar Association, thru. Sh. Ahsan ud-din, President of High Court Bar had filed identical petitions against Speaker National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza for not sending. reference to the Election Commission of Pakistan pertaining to the disqualification of Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani from the office of Prime Minister.
During the course of the hearing in the instant case, both Attorney General Irfan Qadir and Muneer Paracha, counsel for the Federation had stressed for dismissing the instant petitions as they argued that the petitioners could not give solid reasons for why their fundamental rights had been affected due to the ruling of the Speaker National Assembly.
The court further held that the Reference in this behalf may be made to the cases of Mining Industries of Pakistan (Pvt.) Ltd. v. Deputy Speaker, Balochistan Provincial Assembly (PLD 2006 Quetta 36), Madad Ali v. Province of Sindh (1996 SCMR 366), Shams-ud-Din v. Speaker, Balochistan Provincial Assembly (1994 MLD 2500), Muhammad Naeem Akhtar v. Speaker, Sindh Provincial Assembly (1992 CLC 2043), Farzand Ali v. Province of West Pakistan (PLD 1970 SC 98); Muhammad Anwar Durrani v. Province of Baluchistan (PLD 1989 Quetta 25); Jagjit Singh v. State of Haryana (AIR 2007 SC 590) and Rajendra Singh Rana v. Swami Prasad Maurya (AIR 2007 SC 1305).
Soon after the court verdict, lawyers outside the court chanted slogans in favor of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and chanted slogans ‘Go Gillani Go.’ Supporters of the ruling PPP, however, opposed the decision and termed it a conspiracy against democracy.
The lawyer’s community termed the decision of the court as a success of rule of law and supremacy of the constitution. “The decision of the apex court proves that the judiciary is fully independent and determined to protect the constitution and rule of law,” Muhammad Ikram Chaudhry, senior lawyer of the apex court said.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari soon after the court’s verdict, convened a meeting of the allied parties late night, in which the names of federal ministers Ahmed Mukhtar and Makhdoom Shahabuddin figured at the top of the probable list for new PM.
Mumtaz Alvi adds: In line with the landmark Supreme Court order, the Election Commission (EC) Tuesday issued a notification of the disqualification of PM Yusuf Raza Gilani as a member of the parliament.
In the notification, the electoral body maintained that Gilani was no more MNA from April 26 this year. After obtaining the apex court’s order, Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan chaired an emergency meeting. Three Election Commission members, Justice Riaz Kayani, Shahzad Akbar Khan and Fazlur Rehman, were present on the occasion.