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January 8, 2021

Disposal of MPs’ resignations: Speaker, chairman not to act as mere post office

National

January 8, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker will not act merely as a post office while giving effect to the constitutional provisions and the rules of procedure in the matter of resign of a member.

“It is for this reason that the bar of scrutiny and acceptability has been set so high,” wrote Raza Rabbani, as the Senate chairman, in his ruling delivered on Nov 2, 2015, which was to be read in extenso to his decision of Oct 5, 2015. The two rulings were handed on the resigns of the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) senators.

Rabbani held that the acceptance or otherwise of a resign under Article 64(1) of the Constitution is the sole prerogative of the chairman/speaker being business of the House or a matter ancillary thereto.

The former chairman wrote that the duty of the chairman/speaker becomes ever more grave and requires greater diligence and application of the mind to ascertain through verification as to whether, the resign tendered by one amongst so many other members is voluntary, genuine and whether he actually intends to relinquish, relieve or quit the seat and make it vacant, when such resigns are received en bloc from the members of a political party or a combination of such parties.

Rabbani wrote that the stated position on the resign of each MQM senator is they have done so under protest in furtherance of a political agenda. Furthermore, there is reasonable material available on the record which gives a perception that the resigns of some of the members may not be voluntary or genuine and the true intention is not to vacate the seat.

He said if a member of either House resigns, the termination of his membership is not automatic and it is made dependent upon verification and subsequent acceptance of such resignation by the concerned presiding officer unlike in the case of the president, prime minister, speaker, chairman, judges of the Supreme Court or high court etc. which does not provide for any such confirmation. This constitutional responsibility of acceptance or otherwise of resign is placed on the shoulders of the chairman/speaker only.

Rabbani noted that the parliament in particular the Senate is neither a party nor a cause of the resigns which have been tendered under protest by MQM members. These resigns spring from executive actions both at the federal and provincial level as a consequence of which in protest of the same they tendered resigns from the Senate thus depriving the provinces/region of its representation in the upper house.

He wrote that acceptance of the resigns will deprive the province/region of a substantial portion of its representation, reflecting a particular political shade. The framers of the 1973 Constitution introduced the system of proportional representation in the Senate with the philosophy that every spectrum of political thought represented in the provincial assembly would find representation in the House of the Federation. Therefore, any decision in this regard has to be taken when beyond the shadow of a doubt it has been established that the resign is genuine, voluntary and intended to relinquish, relieve or quit the seat and vacate it.

Rabbani said en masse resigns will be presumed, as held by the Supreme Court, prima facie in furtherance of a political purpose and not for the primary purpose of relinquishing office of Senate member.

The process on the resigns will be put into motion in individual case, within a period of one week from the date of their receipt in the chairman’s office/secretariat and on the en masse resigns after the completion of forty consecutive days of Senate sittings from the date of their receipt, he said.

One ruling laid down the guidelines and procedure to be adopted in the instance of en masse resigns. The rules say matters not specifically provided for in the rules and all questions relating to their detailed working will be regulated in such manner as the chairman may, from time to time, direct.

The concerned senators never ceased to be the members of the upper house during their absence from the House after they had resigned but their resigns had not been accepted, Rabbani wrote and advised them to move, if they so desire, leave applications seeking condonation of their absence. He also advised that fresh notices may be given in respect of business which stood lapsed.