ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court’s detailed judgment in ex-PM Gilani’s disqualification case has politely conveyed it to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Fehmida Mirza, that she was not the appellate authority of the apex court of the country.
The role of Dr Fehmida, whose ruling was a frustrated effort to save the premiership of convicted Gilani, was exposed by the detailed judgment. The court verdict said: “The respondent (Gilani) after having been convicted by the seven-member bench for contempt of court became disqualified to be a Member of the Parliament in terms of 63(1) (g) of the Constitution as he did not avail the remedies provided by law to get such a finding set aside.
“Therefore, when the matter came before the Speaker, she ought not to have delayed the decision and to have referred it to the Election Commission immediately in view of the exigency of the circumstances, notwithstanding the fact that 30 days’ period was available to her, and also keeping in mind that she was not the appellate authority of the Supreme Court whose judgment of conviction had attained finality.”
In these circumstances, the SC said, the question in terms of Article 63(2) at best was to send the reference to the Election Commission or not, and by applying her mind she had to decide positively even before the expiry of 30 days’ period in the interest of institution and the country to refer the matter to the Election Commission for issuance of notification of disqualification of the respondent from being a Member of Parliament.
The SC said that no doubt, the existing scheme of the Constitution gives the Speaker the right to decide the question of disqualification of a person from being a Member of Parliament in respect of issues, which are required to be probed with reference to the disqualifications envisaged by Article 63(1) where no conviction has been recorded by a Court of competent jurisdiction, which is to be done within the period of 30 days provided in Article 63(2).
The Speaker had a period of 30 days at her disposal to decide whether she was agreeable to send a reference or not. “Though she ought to have decided the question much earlier because the affairs of the country were being run by a Member of the Parliament who had become disqualified after his conviction and sentence passed by the 7-member bench against which neither any appeal was filed nor was it got suspended from the forum provided under the law. However, the Speaker decided the matter on 24 May, 2012, i.e. just one day before the expiry of the period of 30 days provided for the purpose.”
The SC judgment also responded to the question as to why Gilani was not disqualified on April 26 by saying, “The 7-memebr bench seized with the matter could have passed order of his disqualification at that time, but it seems that judicial restraint was exercised knowing that the convict had a right of appeal and review. Furthermore, his case was also to be routed through the Speaker for the purpose of following the process of law, and above all, he would have been entitled to defend himself if direct challenge was thrown to his qualification as a Member of the Parliament.