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Accepting CM's trust vote, Punjab governor retracts denotification order, LHC told

After chaotic Punjab Assembly session, CM Elahi had managed to secure confidence of House with 186 votes

By Shahid Hussain & Usman Bhatti
January 12, 2023
A file photo of the Lahore High Court. — AFP
A file photo of the Lahore High Court. — AFP

LAHORE: Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman accepted the vote of confidence taken by Chief Minister Parvez Elahi and retracted his denotification order against the provincial chief executive, the Lahore High Court (LHC) was told Thursday as a full five-member bench resumed hearing CM Elahi's plea against the governor's order.

The hearing resumed following high drama and tense proceedings of the Punjab Assembly, which continued for several hours on Wednesday, where CM Elahi remained successful in securing a vote of confidence, amid boycott by the opposition.

He secured 186 votes, the magic number, required to prove simple majority in the House of 371, whereas the opposition boycotted the polling process and left the assembly hall in protest.

A five-member bench headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh — comprising Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabir, and Justice Asim Hafeez — heard Elahi's plea.

Today's hearing

During the hearing today, Justice Abid Aziz Shaikh inquired whether the governor was satisfied with the vote of confidence, to which his lawyer said that the record of the trust vote should be made part of the court's records.

Justice Abid asked Elahi's lawyer, Barrister Ali Zafar, for his opinion. "The floor test is done, would you insist on hearing this plea?" he asked.

Barrister Zafar said he would want to give brief arguments. "We have [the] votes, this is a matter of principle. The governor should have given reasons," the lawyer argued.

The lawyer said that the application had in any case now become ineffective, but reiterated that the denotification order by the Punjab governor was not in accordance with the law.

Justice Abid remarked that one issue had been resolved after the trust vote was taken under Article 137, but the issue that remained was whether the governor's denotification order was correct or not.

However, Justice Asim Hafeez remarked that if Zafar was contesting the legality of the governor’s order then the issue will go to its logical end.

Justice Abid agreed with the observation, saying the court will have to look into everything.

At this, Barrister Zafar argued that the governor’s de-notification order was illegal, and urged the court to give its finding.

Justice Abid, then remarked that the bench now has three questions before it, adding that Elahi has taken a vote of confidence on one question.

On the issue of providing sufficient time, Zafar said he would assist the court on the matter.

“The third question will be if the session is not held then can the chief minister be sent home for not taking the vote of confidence,” asked Justice Abid. He added that the court can also question the governor’s decision to set a date for a vote of confidence.

The court then took a break. 

Once the hearing resumed, the governor's lawyer requested the bench for some time to take instructions from his client.

The bench approved the request and adjourned the hearing again. 

Following the resumption of the hearing, the governor’s lawyer Awan informed the bench that he has spoken to his client and confirmed the vote of confidence.

“The governor has taken back the denotification order,” said the lawyer.

“You have resolved the matter within the assembly this is a good thing. Everything has happened according to the law and constitution,” remarked Justice Abid after hearing the governor’s lawyer. He added that they want minimum court intervention on such matters.

The court also made the lawyer’s statement on the governor’s decision part of the record and ruled that the CM was successful in passing the floor test.

Meanwhile, Justice Hafeez remarked that he would be giving an additional note in the verdict, adding that the bench will not go into the matter of delivering justice in this case.

The bench then disposed of the petition.