National Assembly restored

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Supreme Court declares deputy speaker decision as null and void; no trust vote stand restored; court orders to hold no-trust vote on Saturday

Special Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has restored the National Assembly by declaring the deputy speaker action null and void. The apex court gave a unanimous verdict. All five judges took a unanimous decision.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan observed that Supreme Court of Pakistan has reached the conclusion that the ruling of the Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri appears to be wrong and un justified adding deputy speaker was not authorized to pass on any such ruling. The five member bench of the apex court heard the case for at least four days.

He further said that we are sure that the ruling is wrong however we have to look for the future as well. We have to announce a verdict keeping in view the future of Pakistan. The Attorney General also did not defend the ruling of the speaker.

Supreme Court of Pakistan also summoned Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan as it had reserved its verdict on a suo motu case concerning the legality of the deputy speaker’s ruling and the subsequent dissolution of the NA by the president on the PM’s advice that would be announced shortly.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial has declared that the deputy speaker’s ruling to reject no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan was “wrong”.

The top judge, however, asked the lawyers to assist the court for “solution” in the future. “One thing is clear which is the deputy speaker’s ruling is wrong, what will be the next stem,” he inquired.

Justice Bandial said that the five-judge larger bench will pronounce its verdict on the rejection of the no-confidence motion after Iftari at 7:30 pm today.

During the hearing, the CJ mentioned that the court will have to look after the national interest.

Earlier, the Supreme Court judges gave a pretty hard time to the lawyers of president, prime minister and speaker who defended the National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling rejecting no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

During the course of proceedings, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that apparently constitution was violated in the Assembly. “If the voting had been allowed, then it would have become clear who is the prime minister. Prime Minister cannot dissolve the assembly if a no-confidence motion is tabled. What would be the consequences if the prime minister violates Article 58,” the CJP asked.

The top judge remarked anyone who is losing a no-trust vote tomorrow can opt for new elections.

Justice Bandial said “There is no crisis in the country. Billions are spent on the new elections and the country also passes from a tough situation during the 90 days. We should think of the country.”

A five-member larger bench of the SC, headed by the CJP, heard the case. The judges on the bench are Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ejazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam, Justice Muneeb Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel.

Justice Jamal Mandokhel observed that the court could not sit mum if there was a violation of the constitution. Is the no-trust issue not affecting the public? Is there any protection for unconstitutional steps? Do we sitting here let such unconstitutional steps go by?”

Justice Mandokhel further asked can the prime minister advise the president dissolution if the majority of the assembly oppose it?

Justice Mandokhel also pointed out that the minutes of the parliamentary committee meeting, which were submitted to court by speaker’s lawyer Naeem Bukhari, didn’t prove if the deputy speaker was present. Continuing, Justice Mandokhel asked whether the foreign minister was present during the parliamentary committee meeting, noting that his signature was not included in the record.

“Shouldn’t the foreign minister have been present?” the judge asked, which prompted the lawyer to admit the minister should have been present.

At this, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial pointed out that Moeed Yusuf’s name was also not included in the record.

Justice Ijazul Hassan said the assembly could have reversed the deputy speaker’s ruling had it not been dissolved. “Prime Minister cashed in on the opportunity and dissolve the assembly,” he added.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar remarked was the prime minister aware of the deputy speaker’s ruling that he was sitting ready to address the nation. “It was not in speaker’s powers to rejected no-trust move through ruling,” he added.

He asked was not it like that the written ruling was given to the deputy speaker. “The deputy speaker gave the ruling but how come it carried the signature of the speaker,” he baffled.

Justice Muneeb further asked why the voting was not conducted after the ruling?

Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan, in his arguments, prayed to the court to order general elections in the country.  “There are several options before the apex court,” the AGP said.

He was of the view that the court should arrange an in-camera hearing in which he could inform it of details of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security meeting since disclosing them in the courtroom was not appropriate.  

Similarly, AGP Khan went on to say, military officials had also attended the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting, and if minutes of the meeting were leaked right here in front of the people, it might have negative repercussions for the country’s security as well as the foreign policy. “Some very sensitive issues were discussed at the NSC meeting,” he told the court. 

The AGP argued that in the light of the constitution, a prime minister had the right to dissolve the assemblies. 

However, when the chief justice remarked that it was now settled that the deputy speaker’s ruling was not ‘justified’, the AGP seconded him and said he did not defend his ruling either.      

Speaking on the occasion, Advocate Naeem Bukhari, representing both NA Speaker Asad Qaiser and Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, said he would not take much time and would complete his arguments as early as possible. “I would like to rely on Barrister Ali Zafar’s arguments instead,” he added. 

He said now when general elections had been announced and the ball was in people’s court, the Supreme Court should not hear the deputy speaker’s ruling case.    

When Justice Muneeb Akhtar asked whether there was any instance of the rejection of a no-trust motion on a ‘point of order’, Bukhari replied, “Yes, there was.”

Justice Jamal Mandokhel inquired from him as to what was his opinion if the NA speaker does not allow voting on the motion. “Is that not a violation of the constitution?” he questioned.

Speaker’s lawyer responded that there was an instance of the National Assembly’s dissolution, which was later declared unconstitutional by the court, but the elections were still held.

Bukhari, on the occasion, submitted to the SC minutes of Parliamentary Committee on National Security meeting.

The chief justice said these were only the minutes. “Where are the names of those who had attended the meeting as well as those who gave the briefing?” he asked. 

Bukhari replied that total 29 people had been invited to the meeting.

CJP remarked that the names of those who had briefed the participants of the meeting were missing.

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel inquired as to whether Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was present at the meeting.       

Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that the deputy speaker did not allow a single lawmaker from the opposition benches to speak on his ruling. “In fact, he should have sought the opinion of MNAs on invoking article-5 of the constitution,” he opined.

Justice Mazhar Alam said it appeared as if somebody else had written the ruling and later handed it to Deputy Speaker Suri.  He also expressed the surprise as how could the ruling bear the signatures of the assembly speaker when actually it had not been given by him. 

Bukhari insisted that the court could not look into the ruling. 

Justice Muneeb emphasized that voting on the motion was a constitutional requirement.                             

Imtiaz Siddiqui, lawyer for the prime minister, adopted before the Supreme Court that the National Assembly speaker could save the country by circumventing the law in case he found foreign funding or any threat to the sovereignty of the country.

“The deputy speaker made a better decision according to his oath. The decision of the deputy speaker is an internal matter of the Parliament,” he stated.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked it was clear in the law that the court would clarify any exemption, adding that the petitioners in the case said the speaker’s ruling could not come after the grant of leave.

“The petitioners are of the view that the deputy speaker’s ruling could have come before the submission of the no-confidence motion. What will you say on this issue?” questioned the chief justice.

“The opposition did not object to the deputy speaker chairing the session of the National Assembly. There is no foul play in the ruling of the speaker. A foreign conspiracy had been confirmed in the National Security Committee meeting,” maintained Imtiaz Siddiqui.

“Law is this that the court will decide the prerogative of the parliamentary proceedings. The court will examine the extent to which the proceedings are justified. You are saying that the deputy speaker had some material with him upon which he gave the ruling. According to you, the right decision was made as per the plan of the prime minister who dissolved the assembly under Article 58. What will be the consequences of this?” the chief justice questioned.

“Don’t repeat things. Tell us the legal points,” he also asked the lawyer for the prime minister. “The court did not interfere in the parliamentary proceedings in the past,” said Imtiaz Siddiqui.

“By announcing general elections, the country is left helpless for 90 days. According to you, this is an internal matter of the Parliament. The speaker is not answerable,” asked the chief justice.

“Yes! The speaker is not answerable to anyone. The dissolution of the assembly by the prime minister is a separate issue from the no-confidence motion. The deputy speaker relied on the National Security Committee meeting for his ruling to reject the no-confidence motion,” said the lawyer.

“When were the minutes of the National Security Committee meeting placed before the deputy speaker?” questioned the chief justice. “I don’t know about it,” Imtiaz Siddiqui said.

“Don’t talk about what you don’t know,” asked the chief justice and put another question to the lawyer saying: “The prime minister broke the limits of Article 58. What will be its consequences?” “When the prime minister came to know about the annulment of the no-confidence motion, he dissolved the assembly,” said Imtiaz Siddiqui.

“If the assembly had not been dissolved, the House could have ended the ruling of the deputy speaker,” remarked Justice Ijazul Ahsan and added that the prime minister dissolved the assembly by taking advantage of the situation.

Ali Zafar, lawyer for President Arif Alvi, Thursday said while presenting his arguments before the Supreme Court regarding the annulment of the no-confidence motion that there were court decisions which stressed non-interference in the proceedings of the Parliament.

“The court rulings say that the Parliament has impunity,” said Ali Zafar. “Isn’t this issue of no-confidence motion affecting the people?” questioned Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.

“Does any unconstitutional work also have protection? Should we let the unconstitutional work happen?” questioned Justice Mazhar Alam and stated that the Supreme Court was the guardian of the Constitution.

At this, Ali Zafar adopted before the court that all issues of the Parliament should be resolved within the Parliament. “The court cannot sit silent if there is unconstitutional work going on,” responded Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and questioned: “Isn’t the prime minister the representative of the entire nation?”

To this responded Ali Zafar saying: “The prime minister is undoubtedly the representative of the people.”

Justice Mazhar Alam further raised a question and asked: “Will it be protected if the Constitution is constantly violated in the Parliament? Isn’t the court the guardian of the Constitution?”

He is followed by Justice Jamal Mandokhail who also put a question to the lawyer and asked: “How will justice be done then if someone is affected by the parliamentary proceedings? If there is no justice, will the court remain silent?”

Responding to the judges’ questions, Ali Zafar stated that the protection of the Constitution could only be ensured in accordance with the Constitution. He added if the Parliament failed, the matter went to the people. “For the protection of the Constitution, every article has to be taken into consideration,” he stressed.

At this, Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial pointed out that the election of a new government and prime minister is a matter within the Parliament. “Had the no-confidence motion been allowed in the Parliament, a decision to elect the new prime minister would have been reached.”

Ali Zafar said that the election of prime minister and the no-confidence motion fell within the ambit of the Parliament’s authority, adding that the assembly was formed because it had to elect its own speaker and prime minister.

“It is the responsibility of the Parliament to legislate. What will happen if the Parliament does not legislate?” questioned Justice Jamal Mandokhail.

“If there is no legislation, the old laws will remain intact. Democracy and elections cannot be separated. The court can review the formation of the federal government and the dissolution of the assembly. The court cannot review both the election of the Prime Minister and the no-confidence motion,” stated Ali Zafar.

“The president has asked the prime minister to continue his work. It means there is no crisis in the country,” remarked the chief justice. “Yes! there is no crisis in domestic politics,” responded Ali Zafar.

“We have a case of no-confidence motion before us,” Justice Mazhar Alam said. “The deputy speaker’s ruling came after the no-trust move. Address this issue first,” he added. “Here too the assembly was dissolved and elections were declared,” Ali Zafar answered.

“Billions of rupees are spent on new elections. We should think about the country. The president dissolved the assembly on the advice of the prime minister. If a no-confidence motion is filed against the prime minister under Article 58, he cannot recommend dissolution of the assembly. We have to consider this matter too in the dissolution of the assembly. Why don’t you explain what type of a constitutional crisis is there? If everything is going according to the Constitution, where is the constitutional crisis then?” remarked the chief justice.

“I am also saying the same that there is no constitutional crisis in the country,” stated Ali Zafar.