ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court Tuesday ended ambiguity about Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s future by ruling that he stands disqualified as national assembly member and was ineligible to hold premiership.
“Yousaf Raza Gilani is disqualified from membership of parliament from April 26, the date of his conviction (in contempt of court case). He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, reading the order.
“The election commission shall issue a notice of disqualification and the president is required to take necessary steps to ensure continuation of democratic process,” he added.
Following the court order, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued the notification of Gilani’s disqualification. His name was also removed from the Press Information Department website as he was neither prime minster nor a member of the parliament anymore.
Gilani despite being convicted and sentenced by a seven-member bench in April was insistent that he was still a legitimate prime minister as the NA speaker has ruled against his disqualification over the contempt matter.
But he was shown the door on Tuesday after a three member bench, headed by the chief justice and comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, declared National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza’s ruling as void.
Yousuf Raza Gilani is the first prime minister of the country convicted and disqualified as he ‘flouted, disregarded and disobeyed the court order’ to implement its judgment on National Reconciliation Ordinance. The court had been asking him since 2009 to write letter to Swiss authorities for reopening of graft cases against his party boss, President Asif Ali Zardari.
The judgment announced Tuesday by the chief justice in the open court stated: “Since no appeal was filed against this judgment, the conviction has attained finality. Therefore, Yousuf Raza Gilani has become disqualified from being a member of the parliament in terms of article 63(1)(g) of the constitution on and from the date (26-04-2012) and time (9:30 am) of pronouncement of the judgment of this court with all consequences, i.e. he has also ceased to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan with effect from the said date and the office of the prime minister shall be deemed to be vacant accordingly.”
The ECP was asked to issue notification of Gilani’s disqualification as member of the parliament w.e.f. 26-4-2012. “President Asif Ali Zardari is required to take necessary steps under the constitution to ensure continuation of the democratic process through parliamentary system of government in the country,” the order further said.
A seven-member bench, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk on April 26 announced the short order, followed by the detailed reasons released on May 8, stating that the court has found Mr Gilani guilty of contempt of court under article 204(2) of the constitution read with section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment till rising of the court under section 5 of the said ordinance.
Advocate Azhar Siddique and PTI chief Imran Khan had moved the court against the NA speaker’s ruling, while PML-N central leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif filed a petition in person against the PM.
The Tuesday’s judgment said that the court in exercise of jurisdiction under article 184(3) of the constitution is competent to ensure enforcement of the fundamental rights of the citizens in all matters of public importance. It said the NA speaker under article 63(2) exercised her powers on PM’s disqualification which are not covered by the definition of internal proceedings of parliament, therefore, the court, in exercise of power of judicial review, is not debarred from inquiring into the order dated 25-5-2012.
In this regard the reference made to the cases of Mining Industries of Pakistan (Pvt.) Ltd. v. Deputy Speaker, Balochistan Provincial Assembly (PLD 2006 Quetta 36), Madad Ali v. Province of Sindh (1996 SCMR 366), Shamsud Din v. Speaker, Balochistan Provincial Assembly (1994 MLD 2500), Muhammad Naeem Akhtar v. Speaker, Sindh Provincial Assembly (1992 CLC 2043), Farzand Ali v. Province of West Pakistan (PLD 1970 SC 98); Muhammad Anwar Durrani v. Province of Baluchistan (PLD 1989 Quetta 25); Jagjit Singh v. State of Haryana (AIR 2007 SC 590) and Rajendra Singh Rana v. Swami Prasad Maurya (AIR 2007 SC 1305).
Earlier, during the proceeding Attorney General Irfan Qadir argued that the clash between the institutions should be averted. The chief justice said: “We have great respect for the parliament and are for its dignity and honour but we have to see the implementation of constitution.” They would decide the case in accordance with the constitution, he added.
The attorney general said: “Even if the apex court passed a judgment against the prime minister, the parliament would undo it.” He referred to a resolution passed by parliament in this regard. The court asked him as to what laws were relevant to the resolution? The AG responded the resolution was passed under article 67 and 69 of the constitution. He prayed that the ruling of the speaker should not be interfered with.
The chief justice observed that if an appeal had been filed against the seven-member bench judgment then the matter of PM disqualification could have been deferred for some time.
The attorney general, instead of arguing on the speaker’s ruling and the prime minister’s disqualification, debated the NRO and immunity to the PM. He said the prime minister has immunity under article 248, but the CJ told him that these objections should have been raised in the appeal.
The chief justice inquired from Aitzaz why an appeal against the judgment was not filed. The counsel replied they feared an appeal could result in an even harsher judgment.
A K Dogar, counsel for petitioner Azhar Siddique, in rebuttal pleaded that Gilani ceased to be the prime minister and was also disqualified as a MNA the moment the seven-member bench convicted and sentenced him on 26-4-2012.
He said that PM represents all the people of the country therefore he should function under the law. His act of ridiculing the judiciary has deprived the people of their right to justice. He said: “Democracy is a form of government where everyone has a share in the government.”
Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said that the prime minister, judges and speaker all are being paid from public taxes. “We all represent the will of the people but are subject to the law and constitution.”
Hamid Khan, counsel for Imran Khan, said that a person who is convicted by the apex court has been continuing to hold the office of the PM, which was not right. He said this impression should be dispelled that if Gilani would not remain PM then there would be instability in the country, as argued by the attorney general. He said if constitution is followed in letter and spirit then there would be no instability.
Justice Jawwad said it was the responsibility of the chosen representatives to provide security to people. Due to the shortage of CNG and electricity, the masses across the country were suffering badly, he added.
The court observed that neither the speaker nor the ECP could sit on the Supreme Court judgments. The court has shown respect to the constitutional provisions and did not thwart the process from its natural course.
After receiving the judgment the speaker had to inquire whether there was judgment passed regarding the contempt of court against PM, or the appeal was filed or not against the verdict? But she should not have gone beyond her authority to find out fault with the apex court judgment. The 30 days time given in the constitution to speaker also lapsed; therefore, she should have sent the matter to the ECP.