Thursday December 08, 2022

PTI MNAs resignation case: Court cannot direct NA speaker, remarks IHC CJ

“This is a political issue and Parliament is the place to resolve political tussles," observes Justice Minallah

October 06, 2022
A representational image of Islamabad High Court building. — IHC official website
A representational image of Islamabad High Court building. — IHC official website 

ISLAMABAD: The court cannot issue orders to the National Assembly speaker, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice (CJ) Athar Minallah remarked Thursday on a petition filed by the PTI against the "piecemeal" acceptance of its lawmakers’ resignations.

At the outset of today's hearing, Justice Minallah stated that the court respects Parliament, adding that a similar petition was also filed before on this matter.

“Is this the political party’s policy?” wondered the judge, while acknowledging that the rest of the PTI MNAs resignations are yet to be accepted. People trusted the representatives and sent them to Parliament, he remarked.

"This court cannot issue orders to the speaker of the National Assembly," remarked Justice Athar Minallah on the PTI's petition, directing the court to order the custodian of the lower house to investigate their party's resignations. He also observed that in the Shakoor Shad case, IHC had only asked for a review.

“This is a political issue and Parliament is the place to resolve political tussles. You should hold dialogue with political parties to resolve problems,” said the IHC CJ.

During the course of the proceedings, the judge remarked, “We have to see if the petitioners came with clean hands before the court or not,” remarked the judge.

At this, Barrister Ali Zafar, the counsel for the PTI lawmakers, told the court that his clients have not approached the IHC against the party policy.

However, the judge observed that the petitioners had themselves admitted that their resignations were “genuine”.

‘Speaker did not fulfil his constitutional obligation’

But the lawyer told the court that his clients believe that Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf did not fulfil his constitutional obligation. The resignations were given on the condition that all 123 will be accepted, he added and reminded the court that only 11 were accepted.

“We say that the resignations were conditional. If all the members' resignations were not accepted then the condition was not met,” said Zafar. He also added that the resignations were not accepted without a proper inquiry, sharing that the current number of resignations laying before the speaker was 112.

At this, Justice Minallah observed that the MNAs whose resignations were pending should return to Parliament then. It is their responsibility to represent people in Parliament, he added.

Zafar responded to this by saying that going to Parliament was a “secondary issue”.

“Then by being members of Parliament they are virtually boycotting the assembly. Think about this and submit an affidavit,” said the judge. In 70 years courts have been dragged in a lot of political matters and this has harmed the judiciary as an institution, he observed.

“This is not a member’s issue, but is also of the people of those constituencies who no longer have representation in Parliament,” said the IHC CJ. He, once again, observed that the members in question have admitted that their resignations were genuine.

At this, the counsel for the petitioners assured the court that the resignation letters were genuine but conditional. We say all resignations were genuine and must be accepted, he said.

“Is your stance that the party forced them to resign? If this is the case then you are going against party policy,” said Justice Minallah.

However, Zafar assured the court that the lawmakers were not going against party policy and clarified that their stance is that the speaker did not fulfil his constitutional obligation.

“Audio leaks have shown how 11 members’ resignations were accepted. Our political objective was to vacate 123 seats, our aim was not achieved so we believe that everyone is still an MNA,” said Zafar.

'Do not turn democracy into a joke'

At this, Justice Minallah, once again, remarked that the MNAs that have not been de-notified should sit in Parliament.

“Parliament has been disrespected a lot, do not turn democracy into joke”, said Justice Minallah.

But Zafar told the court it was not possible for the PTI to return to the Parliament as the audio leaks have come forward and 11 members have been kicked out.

Once again, Justice Minallah reiterated that political uncertainty in the country can only be ended in Parliament.

At this, Zafar once again told the court that he cannot comment on the MNAs' return to Parliament at this point in time. This depends on the party policy, he added.

“If you suspend the order for the acceptance of resignations then we can go and speak to the NA speaker,” Zafar told the court.

“The court will not facilitate you in political dialogue, petitioners say they do not accept the Parliament. They want to maintain political instability which is not in the interest of the country,” observed IHC CJ.

At this, Zafar told the court that the petitioners never stated that they do not accept the Parliament.

“Court can adjourn the hearing till tomorrow. Go to Parliament and prove your good intentions. Political tussles should be resolved in parliament, not in court,” said IHC CJ.

But the lawyer instead requested the court to give him half an hour to speak to his clients.

At this point, the court rose for a break and the IHC CJ gave an hour to the lawyer to inform him of his client's decision.

When the hearing resumed after the break, Ali Zafar said, “I spoke to my clients. I want to bring a legal issue to the court’s notice.”

He maintained that the NA speaker broke legal points while accepting his clients’ resignations.

“In reality, the speaker never made the decision of accepting the resignations. As per facts, the speaker’s decision is unconstitutional,” argued the lawyer.

He pleaded with the court to allow him to read the transcript of the audio leaks.

At this, Justice Minallah said, “Do not go into such things. This political uncertainty is not good for the country and people.”

The judge noted that the country’s economy is also getting damaged due to the political uncertainty.

Ali Zafar maintained that in the leaked audio Ayaz Sadiq, Azam Tarar and others are allegedly deciding on the resignations.

The IHC CJ asked if he wanted to say that the speaker accepted the resignation at someone’s behest.

Responding to the court’s suggestion, the lawyer said, “Returning to Parliament will be a political decision and the court should stay away from it.”

“We give you five days. Satisfy us in five days if you will go to Parliament,” stated Justice Minallah.

At this, the PTI’s lawyer said that the speaker’s order denotifying the resignations should also be suspended during this period.

“The acceptance of resignations was done by aliens not by the speaker,” argued Ali Zafar

Justice Minallah remarked, “It is contempt of parliament if one stays out of parliament despite being a member.”

He added: “You say suspend the resignation acceptance notification so you can boycott”

The lawyer replied that the petitioners wish to remain members of Parliament.

“You do not want to go back to represent your constituency but for your politics,” observed the judge.

The chief justice said that you should satisfy the court first that you really wish to go back to parliament.

Justice Minallah remarked that no political party is above the parliament, adding that no one is talking about civil supremacy today.

“Show through your conduct that you will respect Parliament,” noted the IHC CJ.

“We were barred from going to assembly after acceptance of resignations,” argued the PTI’s lawyer.

Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing for an indefinite period.

The case

On October 5, the PTI approached the IHC over the issue of the acceptance of the resignations of its 112 MNAs from the National Assembly.

The PTI lawmakers tendered their resignations en masse after the Imran Khan government was ousted through a no-confidence motion. Out of 123 MNAs, the resignations of only 11 had been accepted.

In the joint plea, PTI members, including Ali Mohammad Khan, Shireen Mazari and others have stated that the National Assembly (NA) speaker "unlawfully" declared them as having resigned from their seats.

They appealed to the court to order NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to fulfil his constitutional duty of accepting the resignations.

The lawmakers also requested the court to ask the speaker to call those who have filed a petition and the other 112 members.

According to the petition, the speaker should check that the lawmakers who tendered their resignations did it voluntarily under Article 64.

"Without hearing the petitioner, the Speaker cannot attain the level of satisfaction required by the law by the virtue of which the resignation can become effective," read the petition.

The petition also stated that the speaker had also de-seated 10 other members, including one member Abdul Shakoor Shad, who also had not appeared before the speaker.