Islamabad, Apr 5 (PTI) Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the record of the proceedings of the National Assembly conducted on the no-confidence motion filed against Prime Minister Imran Khan as it resumed hearing on the legality of the ruling by the deputy speaker blocking the no-trust vote.
The apex court had taken a suo motu cognizance of the current political situation in the country. A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial issued the directives, with he top judge saying that the court only wanted to ascertain the constitutionality of the steps taken by the deputy speaker for the dismissal of the no-confidence of motion and subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly. “Our sole focus is on the ruling of the deputy speaker…it is our priority to decide on that particular issue,” Chief Justice Bandial was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune newspaper.
The apex court wanted to see if the ruling of the deputy speaker could be reviewed by the bench, he said, adding that the court will merely decide on the legitimacy of the speaker’s action. “We will ask all parties to focus on this point,” he added. As the hearing resumed, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani and senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan presented their arguments before the court.
Rabbani said that the court had to examine the extent of the “immunity” of parliamentary proceedings. “Whatever has happened can only be termed as civilian martial law,” he said. He maintained that the speaker’s ruling was “illegal”, Dawn news reported. “The no-confidence motion can’t be dismissed without voting on it,” he said, citing Article 95 of the Constitution. Rabbani also said that a deliberate attempt was made to construct a narrative against the no-trust move while a foreign conspiracy was also touted.
PML-N’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan said that the no-confidence motion was submitted to the NA with the signatures of 152 lawmakers while 161 had voted in favour of tabling it. “After that, proceedings were adjourned till March 31.” As per the rules, the counsel pointed out, a debate on the no-trust move was supposed to be conducted on March 31. “But a debate was not held,” he said, adding that voting was also not conducted on April 3.
If Khan gets a favourable ruling, elections will take place within 90 days. If the court rules against the deputy speaker, the parliament will reconvene and hold the no-confidence vote against Khan, experts said. President Arif Alvi had dissolved the National Assembly (NA) on the advice of Prime Minister Khan, minutes after Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri rejected a no-confidence motion against the premier, who had effectively lost the majority in the 342-member lower house of Parliament on Sunday.
Chief Justice Bandial had said that all orders and actions initiated by the prime minister and the president regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly will be subject to the court’s order. On Monday, the larger bench of the apex court – comprising Chief Justice Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail – took up the matter after Deputy Speaker Suri rejected the move to dislodge the prime minister by declaring the no-trust motion unmaintainable due to its link with a so-called foreign conspiracy.
President Alvi, the Supreme Court Bar Association and all political parties have been made respondents in the case. Lawyers from the government and opposition presented their argument regarding the ruling by the deputy speaker. Chief Justice Bandial had earlier Monday said the court would issue a “reasonable order” on the issue on Monday.
During the hearing on Monday, Chief Justice Bandial said that even if the Speaker of the National Assembly cites Article 5 of the Constitution, the no-confidence motion cannot be rejected, Geo News reported. During the proceedings, Justice Ahsan noted that there were violations in the proceedings of the no-trust resolution, Dawn reported.
Justice Bandial observed that a debate before voting on the no-confidence motion had been clearly mentioned in the law but didn’t take place. Justice Akhtar expressed dubiousness over the deputy speaker’s constitutional authority to pass such a ruling, the paper said. “In my opinion,” he said, “only the speaker had the right to pass the ruling. “The deputy speaker chairs the session on the non-availability of the speaker.” Justice Bandial also observed that the deputy speaker’s ruling mentioned the meeting of the parliamentary committee for security. “The opposition deliberately didn’t attend the meeting,” he said.
Farooq H Naek, who was representing the joint opposition, pleaded with the court to issue a verdict on the matter on Monday. But Justice Ahsan said it was impossible to pass the verdict on Monday, adding that the apex court’s decision will have far reaching outcomes. “We can’t pass a decision in the air,” Justice Bandial said, adjourning the hearing till Tuesday. He had also rejected the opposition’s plea for a full bench.
The decision of the court would also determine the legality of the presidential order to dissolve the National Assembly. However, opposition parties rejected both the ruling of deputy speaker and dissolution of the parliament, and not only challenged it in the court but also fought tooth and nail outside the Supreme Court.
PTI CPS ZH AKJ ZH ZH