Supreme Court set to decide whether Speaker’s ruling ‘right or wrong’

ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court of Pakistan is expected to decide the fate of embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday (today) following two days of political turmoil in the country.

A five-judge bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Muneeb Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel heard the case.

During the course of proceedings, the CJP while considering the plea of PPP counsel Farooq H Naek regarding the formation of full court, asked him to submit his formulation and if the court found it appropriate then it would consider his plea.

He asked Naek if he had no confidence in them, then they could rise from the bench. Upon this, Farooq Naek said that he had full trust in the bench.  As the case concerned complex matters of law, all judges of the apex court should sit on the bench, he added.

Justice Bandial said forming a full court bench would impede proceedings of other cases.

The no-confidence motion was tabled in the House by the joint opposition parties. Imran Khan had to face no-trust vote in the National Assembly on Sunday. But in a ‘surprising’ move that has roiled the country, members of Mr Khan’s party blocked a vote of no-confidence in the PM and dissolved parliament. Imran claims the vote was part of a US-led conspiracy to remove him but the US denied this.

Furious opposition politicians then filed a petition to the Supreme Court to rule on whether the move to block the vote was constitutional. The court was initially expected to decide by the end of Monday, but delayed the decision until Tuesday (today).

No-confidence motion against Imran Khan

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial says court will announce ‘a reasonable decision’ | Justice Ijaz says it is very important case related to the Constitution

Justice Muneeb asks whether Speaker had the authority to disallow presentation of resolution

During Monday’s hearing, the court noted that the meeting of Parliamentary Committee on National Security was held on the communiqué where the opposition failed to participate. Justice Bandial raised the question on failure of the joint opposition leaders to attend the parliamentary committee briefing on the alleged foreign conspiracy. Then, the bench questioned that what is the significance and relevance of the meeting of the parliamentary committee and what is its significance for the House.

 

The bench questioned that when the resolution can be rejected for voting. Farooq Naek adopted the stance that once, the leave granted on no-confidence motion then it is not in the ambit of the Speaker or Deputy Speaker powers to reject the resolution. He said that the issue of legality or illegality of resolution has to be done at the earlier stage. The extraneous grounds cannot be taken into account after the leave is granted. The majority of the total member of the Parliament can vote to reject the resolution on no-confidence vote, he added. Justice Ijaz said that it means when the bridge is crossed then the date on resolution was only to be fixed for voting.

 

The counsel said that the Speaker has to see the propriety or validity of the resolution before the leave granted on the motion. The Chief Justice noted that it means that no ground is available with the Speaker to strike down the resolution on extraneous ground and the only stage is when the motion for resolution is submitted by 20 percent of the total membership of the National Assembly.

 

When Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s counsel Babar Awan took the rostrum, the chief justice asked him that the bench wanted to hear the petitioners first. “If you want to give a statement, you can,” he added.

 

Babar Awan, in his arguments, said he wanted to refer to the apex court’s decision of March 21, 2022, when the Attorney General for Pakistan had assured the court that no member of the National Assembly would be prevented from attending the session.  He said the presidential reference should be heard with the present suo-motu notice. Babar Awan said the PTI was ready for the next election.

Upon this, the chief justice remarked that the court would only review the speaker’s ruling, not political statements, and would announce a reasonable decision.

 

Farooq H Naek said that each House of the Parliament is the master of its own procedures and those cannot be touched upon. He said that the procedure for no-confidence vote is found in the National Assembly Rules and it is also found in the Article 95 of the Constitution. Justice Muneeb said that if the procedure of no-confidence is given in the Constitution then any deviation from the procedure is the constitutional illegality. “It is the violation of the mandate of Constitution,” the judge noted.

 

Onset of the hearing Farooq H Naek briefed the bench when the requisition and the resolution for no-confidence vote was submitted i.e. on 08-03-22. He requested the bench that Full Court bench be constituted for hearing of the matter as very important constitutional points are involved in it. However, the chief justice declined his request. He said if he has objection on any member of the bench then they would rise from the bench. However, Naek said that he has full confidence in the bench.

 

He said that the resolution under Article 95 of Constitution does not state any charge or allegation against the Prime Minister as it is required to impeach the President. The PPP lawyer submitted that the opposition was allowed to move the resolution on 28-03-22, while the 14 days under the Article 95 completed on 22-03-22. He told that resolution was approved by the Speaker on 28-03-22.

 

The NA Session was summoned on 31-03-22, but it was adjourned without debate within five minutes, however, that day the voting day was fixed for April 3. He informed that on that day Law Minister Fawad Chaudhry stood on his seat and gave brief speech about the foreign conspiracy against the PTI government. Thereafter the deputy speaker read out the ruling of the Speaker. He said that the detailed ruling was issued later on. Naek said that this mala fide has brought the country on the brink of standstill.

 

He said that the speech of Fawad Chaudhry was the continuation of the Imran Khan speech on 27-03-22, where he spoke about foreign interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan that the opposition parties with the help of the foreign conspirators wanted to topple his government.

 

Naek contended that the Deputy Speaker ruling not only condemned but declared 175 sitting members of the Parliament as traitor without proof. It took less than 3 minutes to reject the resolution on no-confidence vote. He requested the bench to set aside the Ruling of Deputy Speaker on no-confidence vote. “All eyes nationally and internationally are fixed on the judgment of the Supreme Court on the matter,” he said.

 

The Chief Justice said that they wanted to decide the matter soon. Therefore, they would like to decide the matter after hearing all the parties. Justice Ijaz said that it is very important case of constitution issue and it cannot be decided hurriedly. He added that once the judgment is given it will be for all times to come.

 

The bench directed Advocate General Punjab to get instruction from the relevant authorities on the appointment of new chief minister and to make statement Tuesday (today). The Supreme Court also questioned that how the Deputy Speaker could give ruling to reject no-confidence vote in the National Assembly on April 3.

 

Meanwhile, CJP Bandial asked if April 3 was not fixed for a debate on the no-confidence motion, so “how could a date be fixed for direct voting without holding a debate on the no-trust motion?”

He added that a debate must be carried out over the issue for three days before going towards voting as per the rules of the National Assembly. At this, Naek informed the court that the speaker didn’t allow debating on the motion despite PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s request.

 

Farooq H Naek said the speaker didn’t provide any reason for not convening the session till March 20 after the motion was submitted.

 

Justice Mandokhel objected that Naek’s case was related to the action of the speaker in Sunday’s NA session. He asked Naek whether the speaker was right or wrong. Justice Muneeb Akhtar said if there were 100 members in the assembly, and 50 of them were against it and only 25 supported the motion. He asked whether the motion would be dismissed if the majority opposed it.

 

Naek said if the majority stated that the motion could not be presented, then it could not be presented. It was the House that had allowed the motion to be presented, not the speaker.

 

Justice Muneeb Akhtar said if the government was in the majority in the NA, then no motion would ever be moved if voted against them. He asked whether the speaker had the power not to allow the motion to be moved. What would happen if the speaker did not allow the motion?

 

Justice Muneeb asked whether the speaker had the authority to disallow presentation of the resolution and what would happen if the speaker did not allow to do so. It was during the assembly’s proceedings that the speaker rejected the resolution, he added.

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