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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday turned down former prime minister and leader of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Yousuf Raza Gilani’s petition challenging the result of the elections for the chairman Senate.

A single-member bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the petition, and declared the same non-maintainable after hearing arguments.

The IHC observed in its judgment that “it is the case of the petitioner that he was a joint candidate of the PDM [Pakistan Democratic Movement] which commands a majority in the Senate of Pakistan, and that he ought to have been declared as a returned candidate because of the numerical strength and the petitioner asserted that, as a joint candidate of the PDM, he has the support of the majority of the worthy members of the Senate”.

The court also noted that “it is thus, obvious that the majority cannot only remove respondent no 6 (Sadiq Sajnrani) but, simultaneously, elect the petitioner to the office of the chairman”.

“If that is the case, then a democratic and adequate constitutional remedy is available to the petitioner,” maintained Justice Minallah.

He added, “For the above reasons, the petition is neither maintainable nor is this Court inclined to exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 199 of the Constitution by issuing notices. Consequently, the petition is accordingly dismissed.”

The IHC chief justice further said, “This Court expects that, in order to maintain the dignity, integrity and independence of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), the chosen representatives and political leadership will endeavour to resolve disputes without involving the judicial branch of the State, by giving effect to the privileges, powers and immunities prescribed in the Constitution.”

In his petition, Senator Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani invoked the jurisdiction of this court under Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan, challenging the process of election to the post of the chairman of the Senate of Pakistan and the rejection of seven votes by the presiding officer, Senator Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, in particular.

Justice Minallah mentioned in his verdict that Parliament is the supreme legislative organ of the State.

He said: “It represents the people of Pakistan and maintaining its dignity, respect and independence is of paramount importance and a constitutional duty of other branches of the State.

It is the highest forum for, inter alia, resolving national issues and political disputes.

The parliamentary privileges, powers and immunities have been expressly incorporated in the Constitution.

The Houses of the Parliament are empowered to regulate their respective proceedings and the Constitution clearly prevents the courts from inquiring into its validity. Any attempt by a court to interfere in the proceedings of the Houses by calling into question its validity is likely to undermine the dignity, prestige and independence of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) on the one hand while, on the other, it exposes the apex constitutional legislative forum to undesirable and unwarranted criticism”.

The court observed: “Any encroachment by the judicial branch in the realm of the validity of proceedings of the Parliament inevitably has consequences, which adversely affects public interest. It erodes the sanctity of the supreme legislative constitutional forum besides weakening the sovereignty, independence and prestige of the Parliament and such intrusions by the courts profoundly affect the confidence of people in the Parliament.

“Simultaneously, it has consequences for the judicial branch of the State as well because it essentially exposes the courts to deal with matters having political content. In a politically polarized environment, intervention by the courts and that too in disregard to the constitutional privileges, powers and immunities of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) is likely to have profound ramifications in the context of the confidence of the people relating to impartiality of the judicial branch,” maintained the bench.

According to the court verdict, “an effective, independent, and functional Parliament is the sole panacea for ensuring the well-being and prosperity of the nation. The security and integrity of the State also depends on the institutional strength and sovereignty of the Parliament. The grievance of the petitioner in the matter in hand exclusively pertains to questioning the validity of proceedings of the Upper House of the Parliament and thus, it is immune from interference by this Court under Article 69 of the Constitution”.

It further said that “the process of election to the office of the chairman of the Senate of Pakistan is definitely not administrative in nature. It is, rather, a formal transaction of business of the Upper House and can be fairly described as its internal proceedings. The entire process is thus wholly outside the corrective jurisdiction of a High Court.

The IHC bench maintained that “even if it was not so, this court would have exercised restraint because of its deference to the independence, dignity, and prestige of the Parliament. The very nature of the composition and status of the two Houses is such that the court has to presume that it has the ability to resolve the most difficult and complex disputes without involving the judicial branch”.

It declared, “The petition is, therefore, not maintainable.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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