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5-0: Supreme Court restores National Assembly, sets aside deputy speaker's ruling

  • No-confidence vote to be held on April 9 (Saturday)
Published April 7, 2022
The top court also ordered National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to summon the session on Saturday (April 9). Photo: Reuters
The top court also ordered National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to summon the session on Saturday (April 9). Photo: Reuters

The Supreme Court has set aside the ruling issued by the deputy speaker on the no-trust vote against Prime Minister Imran Khan, and restored the National Assembly (NA).

The court ruled that President Dr Arif Alvi's decision to dissolve the National Assembly was "illegal" and restored PM Imran as well as his cabinet.

The top court also ordered National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to summon the session on Saturday (April 9) at 10:30 am, saying that the session cannot be adjourned without the conclusion of the no-trust motion.

"If the no-confidence motion against the prime minister succeeds, then the assembly will appoint the new prime minister," the court order said.

The order further noted that the government cannot interfere in the participation of any lawmaker in the assembly session.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial said that the court's verdict was "unanimous."

"The current issues are done away with," he said.

The top judge remarked that the order will not impact proceedings under Article 63 of the Constitution.

Reacting to the development, Leader of the Opposition in the NA Shehbaz Sharif said that the people of Pakistan have won today.

"Mubarak to all who supported, defended & campaigned for the supremacy of the Constitution. Today, politics of lies, deceit & allegations has been buried," he said in a Twitter post.

A five-member bench, headed by CJP Bandial, had been hearing the case.

At the start of the hearing, PM Imran’s counsel Imtiaz Siddiqui argued that the scrutiny of parliamentary proceedings was not part of the judiciary's mandate. “The court should ask parliament to clean up its mess,” he said.

Justice Bandial, in his remarks, said that it was clear that the April 3 ruling of the deputy speaker was erroneous.

"The real question at hand is what happens next," he said, adding that now Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan would guide the court on how to proceed.

"We have to look at national interest," he said, adding that the court would issue a verdict today.

Responding to Justice Bandial's comments, Khan argued that everyone should be loyal to the state, adding that he was not defending the ruling.

"However, I think new elections are the only solution," he added.

ECP says 'free and fair' elections not possible until October 2022

Security beefed up

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the verdict being announced, security was beefed up around the Supreme Court complex.

Wednesday's proceedings

During the hearing on Wednesday, the chief justice had sought the record of the National Security Council meeting from the government's legal team.

The top court had also questioned the basis on which the speaker issued the ruling. "Can the speaker announce such a ruling without presenting the facts," the chief justice asked the government's legal team, adding that this was the constitutional point on which it had to make a decision.

Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, appearing on behalf of President Dr Arif Alvi, argued that in view of the constitutional crisis, the best and the only solution lies with the ultimate sovereign i.e. which are the people of Pakistan. The only remedy available is election. He submitted that since the appeal has been made to the people of Pakistan and elections are to take place in 90 days then as per the established practice and prudence, the Courts do not and should not interfere at this stage and let the people decide.

The chief justice asked the counsel does he mean to say that the constitutional crisis can be resolved by going to elections? He said if the opposition has any grouse they should go to the people, adding but there is an element of trickery.

He said the dissolution of the Assemblies is an independent act undertaken by the president under Article 48(5) read with Article 58. At the time, no resolution of no confidence was pending against the prime minister and, hence, the dissolution cannot be questioned under Article 48(4).

Ali Zafar said that the petitioners have challenged the ruling of the deputy speaker National Assembly and asked the apex court to examine the validity of the ruling. He said the possible direction to the Speaker to hold the no-confidence vote, in his opinion, will encroach upon the jurisdiction of the Parliament.

Justice Bandial questioned though it is not allowed [examine the parliament proceeding], but then there is constitutional violation, adding in Article 95 the procedure has been prescribed. He said that the limit is crossed when the constitutional provision is violated. The privileges are under the Rules, but there are obligation under the Constitution, if the obligation is violated then the court can look at it.

Ali Zafar argued the concept of trichotomy of powers/separation of powers between legislature, judiciary, and executive is well-enshrined in our Constitution under which each organ has its specific role.

He contended that the Parliament has certain privileges under the procedures – the fundamental and the foremost privileges being that the Parliament is the sole and exclusive judge and master of its own proceedings and business and no decisions or rulings made while conducting parliamentary proceedings/business are justiciable. It is also a part of Parliamentary privileges that no officer, including the deputy speaker, is subject to jurisdiction of Courts in respect of Parliamentary privileges/proceedings.

Ali Zafar cited the judgments of Pakistani Courts, the crux of them is that any decisions taken during and within the parliamentary proceedings/business of Parliament are not justiciable. It is only if a proceeding is outside the scope of proceedings in parliament that the court can examine.

He stated that the vote of confidence is clearly a matter of proceedings in the National Assembly and any ruling passed by the Speaker or Deputy Speaker in respect thereof or during the same are not justiciable.

Justice Bandial remarked that Article 69 is okay but something unprecedented has happened. The resolution for no-confidence vote was likely to be succeeded, which has the backing of the constitutional provision but at the last minute it was scuttled. If today, it is permitted, then what SHCBA President has cited the example of Hitler Nazis party remain in power.

The chief justice questioned whether the Speaker has power to give Ruling on point of order which was not included in the agenda item of that day of Parliamentary proceeding. He said the Deputy Speaker, Qasim Suri, without giving the reasons rejected the resolution. Whether the Speaker can ignore the mandate of Article 95 of the Constitution.

Earlier, Babar Awan, representing chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, informed that three Pakistani diplomats in Washington, including Head of Mission, Deputy Head of the Embassy and Defence Attaché, met with the USA Assistant Secretary. They conveyed the US concern against Pakistan to Foreign Office in Islamabad. The cipher was sent to Foreign Office on March 07, 2022. The cipher was deciphered in FO to know that conspiracy was hatched against Prime Minister Imran Khan to topple his government.

When Babar Awan was giving detail, the attorney general came to the podium and said that the issue related to the PM or the State; therefore, it should not come from the counsel of the party. The counsel then asked the court to constitute an inquiry commission as the PM wanted thorough probe on the letter. Upon that Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel said when the prime minister is unaware who is involved in the conspiracy then how he made important decisions.

The chief justice rejected the perception that the apex court is delaying the judgment on suo motu.

He said: “Unfortunately, yesterday (Tuesday) adverse comments were made that the court is delaying the case. We have to hear all the parties and without hearing the other side can’t pass ex parte judgment,” the CJP added.

Earlier, the top judge during Tuesday's hearing had questioned whether the speaker can give a ruling on a point of order which was not included in the agenda item of the day of the Parliamentary proceeding.

CJP had remarked that Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri rejected the resolution without giving appropriate reasons.

While adjourning the hearing on Wednesday, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel had said the court will pass a judgment that will be in the interest of the nation and binding on everyone.

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