Supreme Court will try to announce verdict Wednesday, says CJP

Seeks minutes of March 31, April 3 meetings, Qasim Suri’s order: Verdict only after hearing all parties: Justice Jamal Khan remarks not holding voting on no-trust motion was not a procedural mistake rather it’s violation of Constitution: Raza Rabbani dubs deputy speaker’s ruling ‘civilian martial law’

By: News Desk
Published: 02:25 PM, 5 Apr, 2022
Supreme Court will try to announce verdict Wednesday, says CJP
Caption: TV grab.
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Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial has declared that the court wanted to wrap up the case by Wednesday (tomorrow) and they will try to deliver a verdict the same, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

The Supreme Court sought National Assembly deputy speaker’s March 31 order and the minutes of the government meetings held on March 31 and April 3 while maintaining that not holding voting on the no-trust motion was not a procedural mistake rather it was a violation of the Constitution.

During the hearing of court’s suo motu notice regarding the political situation in the country following deputy speaker’s rejection of no-confidence motion on Tuesday, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial summoned the March 31 order of the deputy speaker and minutes of the March 31 and April 3 meetings.

The CJP remarked that the rules permit tabling of the no-confidence motion. “The Constitution cannot be made ineffective through the rules,” he added.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial, however, declared that the court wanted to wrap up the case by tomorrow (Wednesday) and they will try to announce a verdict.

A five-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Umer Atta Bandial was hearing the case in Islamabad.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that in accordance with the Constitution it was mandatory to hold voting on a no-trust motion within seven days. Justice Muneeb asked how can the court interfere in the National Assembly’s proceedings?

Justice Jamal Khan remarked that not holding voting on the no-trust motion was not a procedural mistake rather it was a violation of the Constitution.

PML-N’s counsel informed the court that if there was a solid reason for deferring the voting beyond the limited period then Article 254 provides protection. “Voting on eighth day will not negate the Constitution,” he declared.

Senator Raza Rabbani, representing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), told the Supreme Court that a prime minister could not dissolve the assembly after a no-confidence motion had been submitted against him. 

He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan did not enjoy majority of MNAs’ support on the day voting on the motion was due to take place, but could not take place due to the deputy speaker’s ruling.  

The PPP’s lawyer went on to add that the National Assembly could not be dissolved until and unless fate of the no-trust motion was decided.  “Prime Minister himself had said that the ‘establishment’ had offered him three options,” Senator Rabbani said, and prayed to the court to order voting on the motion. 

The PPP’s counsel said that he wanted to complete his arguments in the case today so that the court could gave a ‘brief order’ today.  

Justice Umar Ata Bandial replied that the bench also wanted early conclusion of the hearing, but would give its verdict only after listening to all the parties concerned.   

Senator Rabbani said it was now for the court to see to what extent the parliamentary proceedings were exempted from court’s scrutiny. “What had happened on that day could only be described as a ‘civilian martial law’,” he opined.

The PPP’s lawyer said that the National Assembly, in its session dated March 28, 2022, had given a green signal to voting on the no-confidence motion on April 3.    

Raza Rabbani said this is a civilian coup. “A stance was created through an alleged cable which is based on mala fide intent,” he said, adding the no-confidence motion against the prime minister was tabled on March 28 but the NA session was adjourned.

He maintained that Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri gave the ruling without putting the documents before the parliament on Sunday. He argued that Rule 28 says the deputy speaker cannot give a ruling even if he has the authority. "Deputy Speaker’s ruling is illegal and no-trust motion cannot be rejected without voting on it," Raza Rabbani stressed.

The PPP’s counsel further stated that the deputy speaker’s ruling doesn’t have constitutional protections under Article 69.

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel said the issue on hand was whether the deputy speaker’s ruling was constitutional or unconstitutional. He remarked that now the question was whether the SC could judge the legality of the deputy speaker’s ruling.   

Makhdoom Ali Khan, representing PML-N in the case, insisted that the ruling was ‘unconstitutional’ and that the apex court could give its verdict on its validity. 

Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that 20 per cent of the total strength of MNAs should be present in the assembly for approving tabling of the no-trust motion. “But what will happen if 20 per cent of the MNAs support tabling of the motion while the remaining 80 per cent oppose it?” he asked.  

CJP Umar Ata Bandial said that the constitution could not be rendered ineffective through rules, which permitted tabling of the motion. “Your argument is that the deputy speaker’s act of throwing out the motion went against the majority of legislators’ consent,” Bandial asked PML-N’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, who replied that an individual could not sideline the majority opinion of the House.  

Makhdoom further said that the government had claimed that there was a foreign conspiracy behind the opposition parties’ no-trust motion. “There is also a mention of a letter, which the government says is from a superpower and has threatening contents,” he said, and added, “If the court desires, it can summon secret agencies’ officials for a briefing. But since the court has restricted itself only to the constitutional matters, I will prefer not to speak on the issue.”  

CJP Bandial remarked that so far the SC had not given any order to the Punjab government. 

Advocate General Punjab (AGP) prayed to the court to order an inquiry into the political crisis of Punjab since PTI MPAs had been held hostage by the opposition parties at a hotel in Lahore. “Mockery of democracy has been made in Punjab,” he regretted.         

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel asked him not to drag the court into other matters.

The CJP told the AGP that the bench would listen to his arguments tomorrow.

He stressed the need that the election of Punjab chief minister should be held as per the constitution. 

The AGP replied that Usman Buzdar would continue to serve as the provincial chief minister until the election of his successor. 

Speaking on the occasion, another PML-N’s lawyer Azam Nazir Tarar said that the Punjab government was trying to prevent voting by suspending the membership of 40 MPAs.

This infuriated AGP who retorted, “You are lying.” 

The AGP said this was his was his life’s most important but last case as AGP.

The CJP adjourned the case until 11:30 am on Wednesday (tomorrow), saying their will conduct the hearing for three and half hours tomorrow.

He ordered all the counsels of the petitioners to submit their written arguments.

The CJP said so far the court had heard from the counsels of the petitioners and now it was turn of the government’s lawyers.

Reporters: Waqas Azeem and Amanat Gishkori