LAHORE – The Lahore High Court on Monday observed that immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution “is just a concept of theory” and allowed to make Punjab chief minister a direct party in the petition challenging the 18 portfolios reportedly held by Shahbaz Sharif.

The holding of 18 portfolios by the chief minister had been challenged through a writ petition.

On Monday, Justice Umar Ata Bandial resumed hearing on the petition and asked the petitioner-lawyer Noshab A. Khan: “How could we (the court) issue directions to the chief minister until he is made a direct party in the petition?” Mr Khan had made the Punjab chief secretary and principal secretary to the chief minister a party in his petition.

“As the chief minister enjoys immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution; therefore, he could not be made a party directly,” the lawyer informed the court. The Article 248 (1) says that “The President, a Governor, the Prime Minister, a federal minister, a minister of state, the chief minister and a provincial minister shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices or for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions: Provided that nothing in this clause shall be construed as restricting the right of any person to bring appropriate proceedings against the Federation or a province.”

Turning down the argument of the petitioner-lawyer, the judge observed, “The immunity is a matter of theory.” At this, the lawyer requested the court to allow him to file an amended petition on the matter. The judge accepted his request and dismissed his petition as withdrawn.

The petitioner had sought directions for the chief minister not to hold 18 portfolios, including the health minister’s, which, according to the complainant, had led to the failure in curbing the menace of drug reaction. He had pointed out in the petition that the portfolio of the health minister was currently with Shahbaz Sharif.

The petitioner stated that “the chief minister is head of the provincial cabinet and all ministers work under his supervision, but no minister is appointed for eighteen posts and he was retaining 18 portfolios”.

“The health ministry doesn’t exist alike other ministries, therefore, the government had failed to curb dengue epidemic and now the drug reaction menace in also out of its control, leading to the loss of precious lives,” Noshab Khan stated in his petition. The petitioner pleaded the court to bind the CM for relinquishing all portfolios and appoint a health minister in the wake of worst health situation in the province arising from the drug reaction.