ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan Tuesday issued a verdict in the Punjab chief minister's election case and termed the ruling of the provincial assembly deputy speaker, Dost Mazari, "illegal". The court also announced PML-Q's leader Pervez Elahi as the new CM of the province.
The three-member bench — comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Muneeb Akhtar — which announced the verdict after a delay of three hours, directed governor Punjab to administer an oath to Elahi tonight at 11:30pm today.
The PML-Q had filed a petition on Saturday against the ruling of the Mazari that paved the way for Hamza Shahbaz to retain the post of the chief minister of the province.
While reading the brief verdict, CJP Bandial said that the copy of the judgement should be sent immediately to the governor of Punjab, the deputy speaker, as well as the chief secretary of the province.
The apex court, according to the 11-page verdict, declared all appointments made by the PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz "null and void".
Furthermore, the top court also dissolved the cabinet formed by Hamza, saying that the deputy speaker “sabotaged the Constitution of Pakistan”.
"We find that the understanding and implementation of the said short judgment as well as the provisions of Article 63A(1)(b) of the Constitution by the Deputy Speaker, Provincial Assembly of Punjab, Lahore (Respondent No.1) was patently incorrect and erroneous and cannot be sustained," said the order. It added that the act also "subverted" the governance of Punjab.
"As a result, the Ruling dated 22.07.2022 issued by Respondent No.1, Deputy Speaker, Punjab Assembly is set aside and declared to be void, without lawful authority and of no legal effect," said the Supreme Court.
The order then declared Elahi as the duly elected chief minister of Punjab as it ruled that he had obtained 186 votes compared to Hamza's 179.
The order also declared that the oath of office administered to Hamza was "without lawful authority and of no legal effect".
"Likewise all acts, deeds and things attendant and consequent upon such oath including but not limited to the notification of Respondent No.2 (Hamza Shahbaz) and the formation and swearing in of the Cabinet on his advice is also declared to be without lawful authority and of no legal effect," said the order.
At the outset of today, hearing, CJP Bandial said that the constitution's Article 63 (A) clearly states that the parliamentary party gives directions to the lawmakers — and the formation of a full court was nothing more than "delaying the case".
"The formation of a full court and then hearing of the case could have been delayed till September as judges are on leaves."
During the course of the proceedings, Deputy Speaker Mazari's counsel, Irfan Qadir, told the bench that his client has directed him to not be a part of the proceedings.
Qadir told the SC that he would challenge the apex court's decision on the formation of the full court to hear the PML-Q petition.
Following Qadir, PPP lawyer Farooq H Naek came to the rostrum and informed the CJP that he would not be part of the proceedings.
At this, the CJP told him that he "is not a party in the case".
The CJP said that "no legal" grounds were presented before the court; arguments were presented only regarding the party head's directions; the court arrived at the conclusion that in the current case, there was no need for the full bench.
CJP Bandial said the real question was who can give directions to the party lawmakers. The constitution clearly states that the parliamentary party will give directions to the MPs.
"There is no need for further arguments in this case. We will give priority to wrapping up this case as soon as possible," he said.
Meanwhile, the top court sought assistance on the matter relating to directions by the party head or the parliamentary party to the lawmakers.
“Assist the court over the legal questions or we will set ourselves aside from the bench,” CJP Bandial told Barrister Ali Zafar, the counsel of Elahi.
“People sitting on my right side have unanimously decided to boycott the proceedings of the court,” he said, adding that thankfully, they have enough grace to sit in the court to hear the proceedings.
In his arguments, Zafar said that the petitions against the 21st Amendment were dismissed by a ratio of 13/4 in the full court.
However, many judges wrote different reasons for dismissing the petitions, he added.
Zafar told the court that the Constitution mentions that the parliamentary party will give directions to the lawmakers about voting.
At this, the CJP questioned whether the party head and the parliamentary party were two separate entities.
“Yes they are,” Zafar responded.
Justice Ahsan then said, according to the Constitution, the party head ensures the implementation of the decisions taken by the parliamentary party.
The CJP said that the parliamentary party does not make a decision unilaterally. "The parliamentary party is informed about the party's decision, and based on that, it takes a decision."
During the proceedings, Justice Ahsan questioned, “Where has the word parliamentary leader been used?”
The PML-Q counsel replied that the word “parliamentary party” is used in the Political Parties Order 2002.
The word “parliamentary leader” instead of “parliamentary party” is just a mistake, remarked Justice Ahsan.
Seeking the definition of the “party head”, Justice Munib Akhtar asked, “Is the party chief only the head of the political party?”
Ali Zafar replied that former president Pervez Musharraf had replaced the law of party chief with the parliamentary party head, however, the law was abolished in the 18th amendment.
Referring to the SC yesterday’s verdict, in which the top court rejected the coalition government’s plea seeking a full court bench in the CM Punjab election case, CJP Bandial said, “I will change my opinion only when concrete reasons are given.”
Additional Attorney-General (AAG) Amir Rehman then came to the rostrum and said he wanted to present a few suggestions before the court.
"Has the federal government decided to separate itself from the coalition government?” the CJP asked.
The AAG told the top judge that he will assist the court under Article 27.
At this, the CJP extended an open invitation to assist the court to reach a fair and just decision in the high-profile case.
Justice Ahsan asked whether the letter was read in front of the parliamentary party before the voting for the prized slot or the lawmakers of the party were unaware of it.
“The question before the court is whether the [party’s] decision was read out properly or not,” noted the judge.
The court then went on a break for an hour and said that the hearing will resume at 2:30pm.
After the hearing resumed, former advocate general Punjab, Ahmed Owais, started his arguments.
"I want to inform the Supreme Court of a few things. For three months, the matter of the chief minister is under discussion. Let me tell the court that Q-league members were aware whom they had to vote for," Owais said.
He urged the court to review the events that took place not only during the election but also the events that transpired before it.
Referring to the verdict in former PTI lawmaker Ayesha Gulalai’s case, Ali Zafar said that the court had set the procedure for the directions of the party head.
At this, Justice Ahsan remarked that the court, in that case, had delivered its verdict against your client.
The lawyer said that the verdict, in that case, was against my client but in accordance with the Constitution.
“Is it written in the Ayesha Gulalai case that who will give directions?” asked the CJP.
It is declared in the case that the party head or a person nominated by him can file a disqualification reference, replied the lawyer.
The CJP then said that the authority is transferred through the party head and there is no doubt that the head's office plays an important role, but at the same time, the parliamentary party gives directions for voting.
‘Govt flees as it does not have arguments’
Minutes before the proceedings of the case began, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said that the government preferred to run away from the case as they do not have arguments in support of their claim.
Criticising the ruling coalition, Fawad said, “The government does not recognise the Supreme Court of Pakistan”.
Hailing the SC’s decision on the demand for a full court bench on the Punjab CM election case, the PTI leader said, “Such cases are heard only by senior judges across the world.”
Following the by-elections’ results, Hamza Shahbaz should have tendered his resignation as Punjab CM, he said, adding that they should have corrected their mistakes.
The ex-information minister said that democracy thrives when the person who has lost accepts his defeat as he slammed the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) for its unacceptable attitude towards the apex court.
"The PDM should accept the people's decision. This case shouldn't have come here; the SC should not be politically burdened," he said.
Fawad said that the CJP should not be burdened and that the judiciary should be allowed to function independently.
A day earlier, the SC rejected the pleas to form a full court bench on petitions related to the Punjab chief minister’s re-election.
The request for the full bench was made by the ruling alliance during the hearing of the petition filed by PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi challenging Dost Mohammad Mazari’s ruling rejecting votes of 10 PML-Q members cast in his favour and announcing Hamza Shehbaz as CM-elect on July 22.
During the course of the proceedings, Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that they had reduced the burden of pending cases. The SC judges were reducing the backlog of cases with hard work and dedication, and were hearing the cases sitting in different registries.
He said the court gave an opportunity to all parties in the case to present their arguments.
The top judge said there was a direction by the party head in the instant case and the only point to be seen was whether the party head could overrule the parliamentary party’s decision or not. A parliamentary party represented the common people in the assembly, he noted.
Following the SC’s decision to continue the hearing on the Punjab chief minister's election with the current three-member bench, the ruling coalition decided to boycott the hearing scheduled to be held today.
Addressing a press conference at the Prime Minister’s House, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said if the SC doesn’t form a full court, “then we [PDM] will also reject all decisions of the judiciary as we will not appear before this three-member bench.”
“We boycott the proceedings of the apex court,” Fazl announced, adding that the coalition government doesn't want any institution to interfere in its matters.
Fazl, who is also the chief of the PDM, said that the counsellors of the government's alliance advised the jury according to the Constitution. "The top court, however, considered our demand impartially and rejected our petition.”
Earlier, taking to her Twitter account in reaction to the SC's verdict, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz stated that there was only one reason for not forming a full court — “fear”.
“Fear of the contradiction of its own decision,” the PML-N's stalwart wrote.
Saying that she was “almost sure” that a full court will not be formed, Maryam added that when decisions aren’t taken in accordance with the Constitution, law, and justice, then the formation of a full court is "deemed dangerous."
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