- Deputy Speaker’s ruling set aside
- PM and his cabinet restored
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside the ruling of the National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, restored the National Assembly to its position of 3rd April, and held Prime Minister Imran Khan’s advice to the president to dissolve the Assembly, contrary to the Constitution and of no legal effect.
The speaker was asked to summon and hold a sitting of the Assembly in the present Session, and shall do so immediately and in any case not later than 10:30am on Saturday, = April 9, 2022, to conduct the business of the House as per the Orders of the Day that had been issued for 03 April 2022.
“The Speaker shall not, in exercise of his powers under clause (3) Article 54 of the Constitution, prorogue the Assembly and bring the Session to an end.”
A five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, on Thursday after hearing the Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan, prime minister’s counsel Imtiaz Siddiqui, President’s counsel Ali Zafar and Speaker and Deputy Speaker’s lawyer Naeem Bukhari on suo moto for six hours reserved the judgment, which was announced at 8pm.
Before the announcement of the verdict, the chief justice inquired from the Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja about the arrangement for the National Assembly elections. He informed that six to seven months are required for holding the elections. Four months are needed for delimitation and 90 days for holding the election.
The leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, and other political parties were present in the Courtroom No 1.
President PML-N Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari made statements at the conclusion of the proceeding.
Speaker NA Asad Qaiser on 28-03-22 had granted leave to move the Resolution on and the voting on it was to be held on 03-04-22, but the Deputy Speaker rejected the resolution on no-confidence vote against the PM Imran Khan.
The Court in consequence of holding Deputy Speaker ruling unconstitutional declared that the Resolution was pending and subsisting at all times and continues to so remain pending and subsisting. “In consequence of the foregoing, it is declared that at all material times the Prime Minister was under the bar imposed by the Explanation to clause (1) of Article 58 of the Constitution and continues to remain so restricted. He could not; therefore, have at any time advised the President to dissolve the Assembly as contemplated by clause (1) of Article 58.”
“In consequence of the foregoing, it is declared that the advice tendered by the Prime Minister on or about 03.04.2022 to the President to dissolve the Assembly was contrary to the Constitution and of no legal effect.”
“In consequence of the foregoing, it is declared that the Order of the President issued on or about 03.04.2022 dissolving the Assembly was contrary to the Constitution and of no legal effect, and it is hereby set aside. It is further declared that the Assembly was in existence at all times, and continues to remain and be so.”
“In consequence of the foregoing, it is declared that all actions, acts or proceedings initiated, done or taken by reason of, or to give effect to, the aforementioned Order of the President and/ or for purposes of holding a General Election to elect a new Assembly, including but not limited to the appointment of a caretaker Prime Minister and Cabinet are of no legal effect and are hereby quashed.”
The verdict said in consequence of the foregoing, it is declared that the prime minister and federal ministers, ministers of state, advisers, etc., stand restored to their respective offices as on 03.04.2022.
It is declared that the Assembly was at all times, and continues to remain, in session as summoned by the Speaker on 20.03.2022 for 25.03.2022 (“Session”), on the requisition moved by the requisite number of members of the Assembly on 08.03.2022 in terms of clause (3) of Article 54 of the Constitution. Any prorogation of the Assembly by the Speaker prior to its dissolution in terms as stated above is declared to be of no legal effect and is set aside.
The court said that the Speaker shall not, in exercise of his powers under clause (3) Article 54 of the Constitution, prorogue the Assembly and bring the Session to an end”, except as follows:
If the Resolution is not passed by the requisite majority (i.e., the no-confidence resolution is defeated), then at any time thereafter;
If the Resolution is passed by the requisite majority (i.e., the no-confidence resolution is successful), then at any time once a Prime Minister is elected in terms of Article 91 of the Constitution read with Rule 32 of the Rules and enters upon his office.
If the Resolution is passed by the requisite majority (i.e., the no-confidence resolution is successful) then the Assembly shall forthwith, and in its present Session, proceed to elect a Prime Minister in terms of Article 91 of the Constitution read with Rule 32 of the Rules and all other enabling provisions and powers in this behalf and the Speaker and all other persons, including the Federal Government, are under a duty to ensure that the orders and directions hereby given are speedily complied with and given effect to.
The assurance given by the learned Attorney General on behalf of the Federal Government in C.P. 2/2022 on 21.03.2022 and incorporated in the order made in that matter on the said date shall apply as the order of the Court: the Federal Government shall not in any manner hinder or obstruct, or interfere with, any members of the National Assembly who wish to attend the session summoned as above, and to participate in, and cast their votes, on the no confidence resolution.
“It is further directed that this order of the Court shall apply both in relation to the voting on the Resolution and (if such be the case) in relation to the election of a Prime Minister thereafter. It is; however, clarified that nothing in this Short Order shall affect the operation of Article 63A of the Constitution and consequences thereof in relation to any member of the Assembly if he votes on the Resolution or (if such be the case) the election of a Prime Minister thereafter in such manner as is tantamount to his defection from the political party to which he belongs within the meaning of the said Article.”
The order of the Court made in SMC 1/2022 on 03.04.2022 to the following effect, i.e., “Any order by the Prime Minister and the President shall be subject to the order of this Court” shall continue to be operative and remain in the field, subject to this amplification that it shall apply also to the Speaker till the aforesaid actions are completed.
However, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif said if the Court considers the Speaker’s ruling unconstitutional then the action taken by the prime minister is automatically “null and void”. He said that the motion on no-confidence vote is in the field and the parliament is not dissolved.
There are episodes in our history when the Constitution was abrogated, suspended or held in abeyance. The blunder is committed, (but) let us go ahead. Applying premium to blunder has led to sordid affairs. My humble opinion would be that the Speaker’s ruling is illegal. Pakistan was carved out in the name Allah.
Let the Parliament be sovereign and the members of the Parliament take the decision. The PTI has formed a government with the allies. Our opposition also composes of ally parties whose representatives have come from all over the country, i.e., Balochistan, KP, and Punjab. If this setup has operated in the last three years; then the opposition is ready to serve if the law of the land allows.
He said that the US dollar is now at Rs190 but in our government in 2018 it was at Rs125. He proposed that a “charter of economy” is the need of the hour to end the miseries of the people. The country requires a healing hand.
He said that the PTI government functions with 168 members, while they have 177 along with all the allies. We have to burn midnight oil for the development of Pakistan, he said.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial inquired from the opposition leader how many seats his party (the PML-N) had in 2013. Shehbaz replied that they had 150 members in the National Assembly. We were the single largest party in the House.
Justice Bandial said the largest party should have the advantage to run the country. We will look at the law and the facts. We are hearing suo moto under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, in this jurisdiction we exercise our power in the interest of the public. Political stability is important, which is connected with the Constitution. The speaker’s ruling is unconstitutional. We have to see how to go forward. He told Shehbaz that the PTI has 155 seats, which is more than their seats in 2013. Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail told Shehbaz that it has been the consistent demand of the opposition to hold fresh elections in the country. The opposition leader said that their election was stolen in 2018. Upon that Justice Mandokhail said you may recover. Shehbaz said that the Constitution has been damaged. Upon that Justice Mandokhail said; “We will repair.”
Shehbaz said the assemblies in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh are still functioning, adding this is the first time it has happened in history that the National Assembly is dissolved, while the provincial assemblies are functioning. He said they (the opposition) respect the verdict.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that they are not only considering the no-confidence motion, but also seeing what would happen about the remaining tenure of the assembly. Shehbaz said still one-and-a-half-year remains. If we succeed in the constitutional battle, then we will work hand in glove with the opposition (the PTI). Cut our coats to provide space to ordinary man facing extreme poverty.
The attorney general said there are also fundamental rights of the three assemblies. He further said what is the guarantee that those who have supported the PTI in the last three-and-a-half-years will spare you?
Makhdoom Ali Khan said the attorney general’s remarks are intimidating and threatening. He asked who has given surprise or spared whom? He said since 2002, till today, there have been coalition governments. There was not a single party which got the majority in the House. He questioned whether the court would prefer one coalition over another?
Justice Bandial said throughout the opposition has been demanding fresh elections but why they have taken a somersault. Makhdoom said the opposition takes different positions at different times. He said that the PM said he would give a surprise; while took an unconstitutional action surprise. He said the majority party in the National Assembly had 155 members and it formed the government with the help of allied parties. It was short of 18 votes, adding while the combined opposition has 177 members. PML-N 84, PPP 56, and MMA 16, which is 156 members. He said other parties which have join the opposition are MQM 7, BNP 4, BAP 4, ANP 1, JWP 1, and independent 4, which total 21. Thus, the opposition has a total 177 members right now.
Makhdoom asked the bench that it assumes that the previous coalition can work, but the next won’t. The court also talked about the economic crisis, saying that unconstitutional action has been taken, but the court is considering what should be the remedy.
He said that in Haji Saifullah case the court didn’t restore Muhammad Khan Junejo’s government on three grounds that; first, it was a party-less election, while the parliamentary form of government it should be political parties; Second, no one has come forward to challenge the dissolution; while the third was that the election is now scheduled on a party basis.
Justice Bandial asked how he knew that this situation would emerge before the court. Makhdoom replied that he had some idea which direction the court would move. He said the combined opposition has been operating well for the last one-and-a-half-year. He said in this case, the facts are not applicable but it is a constitutional matter. He said the government was sent back home after two years by using Article 58(2) (b) of Constitution.
Makhdoom said in Kh Tariq Rahim case, said that the elections have already taken place and the sovereign power (the people) have spoken and the MNAs were not before us. He said that in the Nawaz Sharif 1993 case, his Assembly was restored. He said that the Court should not shirk from its duty.
He said that many governments in the past were removed by the President by resurrecting the Article 58(2) (b) of the Constitution. He said that the present act of the deputy speaker is a blatant violation of the Constitution.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022