ISLAMABAD - The legal tussle rocking the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) took another dramatic twist Tuesday as the interim chairman was suspended by a court order, only to be reinstated two hours later. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) barred Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi and members of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) to continue their duties regarding the matters of cricket board. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui also appointed a former judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan Justice (R) Munir A Sheikh as election commission to hold the PCB elections by third week of November this year.

In the meantime, a Division Bench (DB) of the IHC comprising Justice Riaz Ahmad Khan and Justice Noor-ul-Haq Qureshi issued notices to the respondents while hearing five Intra Court Appeals (ICAs) of the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC), former chairman PCB Zaka Ashraf, PCB, Lahore Cricket Club and Major (R) Ahmad Nadeem Sadal. These ICAs were moved either against or in lieu of the verdict of a single bench of the IHC dated July 4 but these appeals were pending since July due to non-availability of the division bench.

Justice Siddiqui barred Sethi from performing his duties as PCB chairman after hearing a petition of Ahmad Nawaz Khan who moved a contempt of court application. In his petition, he informed the court that federal government brought an amendment in the article 41 of the PCB constitution on October 14, 2013. He added that the amendment is person specific, mala fide and in order to frustrate the judgment passed by this court. Nawaz argued that the government ignored the fact that there was a specific direction that the caretaker chairman shall not take any major decision except looking into day-to-day affairs of the PCB. The court has also issued notices to Pakistan Sports Board, ministry of IPC, Sethi and other members of the IMC seeking their comments within fortnight.

Justice Siddiqui observed in the verdict: "Contentions of the petitioners are supported from the judgment passed by this court. Therefore device of amendment and constitution of IMC seems to be unconstitutional and attempt to frustrate the judgment passed by this court. In view of the matter, till next date of hearing, the operation of IMC is suspended. Najam Sethi and other members of the IMC are restrained from posing themselves as members and perform any function of the affairs of PCB."

The single bench also allowed the revision application of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that had expressed its inability in holding PCB elections. In this connection, the court appointed Justice (R) Munir A Sheikh as election commission and directed the secretary PCB to extend all sort of assistance, co-operation and also act on all the directions of election commission.

The court noted that the election commission shall also scrutinize the Electoral College consisting 111 voters and shall ensure that the first-ever election of the PCB held in democratic and transparent manner and no voter is deprived on hyper technical ground. Justice Siddiqui fixed the amount of fee the PCB will pay to the election commission that is 2.5 million rupees and it has to be paid within three days of the receipt of this order.

On the other hand, the counsel representing IPC in intra court appeals, Asma Jehangir advocate, argued that her client had filed this ICA on July 24 and verdict of single bench of IHC dated July 4 was beyond the scope of prayer and every stakeholder is aggrieved by this judgment. The counsel said that the July 4 judgment created a mess.

She said that IPC according to the court directions had appointed a chairman PCB but the court then made him a caretaker chairman. In the July 04 rder, ECP was asked to hold elections of the PCB chairman before October 18 that was not ECP's mandate, she added. On this juncture, Justice Riaz of the division bench told IPC counsel that the said order has been amended. The counsel argued that in the July 4 judgment, it was said that the caretaker chairman PCB could not hold the office after October 18 while the Electoral College was not ready for the elections as number of its member has been in litigation.

Asma told the court that after 18th Amendment, now Prime Minister is the patron-in-chief of the PCB who appointed the PCB chairman and the IPC had told the court on July 1 that the patron-in-chief, the appointing authority, has appointed Najam Sethi as PCB chairman but despite the fact there was an order on July 4.

She contended that the single IHC bench has assumed that everything should be done in a democratic way. If this proposition is accepted, it would be a hard task to run major institutions of the country and anyone could say that judges in the superior judiciary should also be elected, she argued.

She said the single bench order has condemned unheard former PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf who was not even a party in the Major Sadal's petition. Counsel of the IPC was of the view that cricket is not only a game for this country; it is necessary for better relations with other countries and a tool of diplomacy as well.

She quoted two SC judgments and said the high courts do not have powers of the suo moto notice but in this particular judgment of July 4, court has traveled far beyond the scope of prayer. She also quoted another judgment of the apex court where it was said that court could not interfere into the policy matters of the country. She continued that International Cricket Council (ICC) in a statement has said that the courts were interfering into the sports affairs of the country. The counsel for PCB, Tafazzul Rizvi advocate argued before the court that through October 14, 2013 SRO, Prime Minister has superseded the PCB and appointed IMC. At this instance Asma said that SRO is a valid law and the court should order status quo according to the said SRO.

Zaka's counsel argued that his client was appointed for tenure of three years but he ended premature. “It was on October 13, 2011 when the ICC had announced a policy to decrease government's interference into the cricket boards of different countries. Then PCB constitution was amended according to the ICC requirement and ICC through letters expressed its satisfaction over the matter,” he said. He said the order of single IHC bench is interference into the policy matters. After hearing arguments from all the appellants, the DB deferred this matter till November 4 for further proceedings.