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LAHORE: A larger bench of the Lahore High Court on Thursday directed the Presiding Officer (Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly) to recount votes of Chief Minister Punjab after excluding 25 votes of the defecting members.

The bench further observed that if required majority, under Article 130(4), is not secured by any candidate, the Deputy Speakers shall proceed for second and further polls under its provisos for completing the process of election as required under Article 130(4) unless a candidate is elected by majority votes. The court added that for clarity it is explained that Hamza Shahbaz shall cease to be chief minister if he loses the required majority.

The bench ordered that the session, for this purpose, as originally called by the then Governor shall be resumed on July 01 (Friday) at 4:00 pm without fail and observed the session so resumed shall not be prorogued till the election process is completed. The bench, however, held that functions performed and powers exercised, by Hamza Shahbaz as Chief Minister and his cabinet, in accordance with law, shall be protected under the de facto doctrine.

The bench said that the decision by Supreme Court of not counting votes of defecting members of a political party is squarely applicable to the election of chief minister held on April 16 last.

The bench also observed, “We could, possibly direct fresh election after declaring the election as unlawful but it would nullify the direction by the court to the state functionaries for conduct of election in accordance with the Constitution and the decision by a division bench of this court appointing Deputy Speaker as presiding officer and directing for conduct of election on April 16 last.”

LHC hints at ordering new election for post of Punjab CM

The Governor shall perform his duty, under Article 130(5), of administering oath without any hesitation and by ignoring any apprehension regarding conduct election at any time before 11:00 am the very next day, the bench added.

The bench said, “We cannot ignore the disorder in various sessions of the Provincial Assembly, therefore we are constrained to observe and direct that any attempt of disorder from any quarter shall be taken as contempt of court and shall be proceeded accordingly by this bench on formal information by any person”.

The order further states that it is an undeniable fact that 25 members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf had voted for Hamza Shahbaz whereas the party had nominated Pervaiz Ellahi as its candidate and the respondent’s contention that the members have not defected in absence of a direction in terms of Article 63A (1)(b) has no force.

The bench also disposed of the appeals regarding oath of Chief Minister by Speaker National Assembly as an ancillary matter.

The bench appreciating the role of print and electronic media observed that some vloggers have scandalised the proceedings recently and directed the FIA and PEMRA to take legal action on their own notice and if so informed by any person. The bench also observed that it shall initiate contempt for scandalizing the proceedings before it if brought formally into the notice of this bench by any person.

Justice Muhammad Sajid Mehmood Sethi disagreeing with the bench observed, “I am partly not in agreement with the majority decision”. He wrote his separate note with reasons. The bench headed by Sadaqat Ali Khan included Justice Shehram Sarwar Ch., Justice Shahid Jmil Khan, Justice Muhammad Sajid Mehmood Sethi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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