Wednesday Apr 27 2022

LHC orders administration of oath to CM-elect Hamza Shahbaz by tomorrow

Lahore High Court. — LHC website
Lahore High Court. — LHC website

  • LHC CJ Bhatti says delay in administration of oath is unconstitutional.
  • CJ Bhatti says there's no government in province for the last 25 days.
  • LHC issues directives to Punjab governor to administer oath by tomorrow.

LAHORE: Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti Wednesday directed Punjab Governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema to administer the oath to CM-elect Hamza Shahbaz himself or appoint a nominee for the constitutional duty by tomorrow.

The directive comes as the LHC announced the verdict on chief minister-elect Hamza Shehbaz's petition against the delay of his oath-taking, which the court ruled as "unconstitutional".

Hamza was elected as Punjab's chief minister on April 16. However, he hasn't sworn in yet as his oath-taking was deferred twice despite the LHC's directives for not delaying the matter any further.

The LHC reserved the verdict on Hamza's plea on Tuesday, which is the second time PML-N has reached out to the high court for the resolution of the matter.

The short order issued by CJ Bhatii stated: “It is, therefore, concluded that all the enabling provisions/Articles of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, suggest the prompt formation of Governments, i.e. Provincial and Federal. For that matter, expeditious administration of oath either by President or by Governor or their nominee, as the case may be, is mandatory; as all expected reasons/options causing delay are excluded/procured by suggesting/providing an alternate mechanism and I do not find any vacuum or space in the Constitution for causing any delay in the administration of oath required under Constitution.”

The verdict added that the province of Punjab is being operated without a functional government, for the last 25-days, since the acceptance of the resignation of the then Chief Minister Usman Buzdar while on the other hand, the oath of the newly elected chief minister, Muhammad Hamza Shahbaz Sharif is being delayed on one pretext or the other, which is not only against democratic norms but also against the scheme of the Constitution.

“That being the case, it is suggested/advised/proposed that Governor shall ensure the completion of the process of administration of the oath of Chief Minister Punjab, either himself or through his nominee, in terms of Article 255 of the Constitution, on or before 28.04.2022,” it added.

In the ruling, CJ Bhatti maintained that President Arif Alvi, who is also under constitutional obligation to facilitate the expeditious administration of the oath of prime minister or chief minister in any province, is suggested to play his role mandated by the Constitution/law, ensuring a functional provincial government in Punjab.

“The office of this Court is directed to transmit this order through fax immediately to the offices of the Governor and President for its placement before them, today.”

‘Blatant defiance’

Following the verdict, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said: “Worst among [Imran Khan’s] damaging legacy is blatant defiance [and] undermining of constitutional authority.”

“Unfortunate that from president to [deputy]/speaker NA to governor [Punjab], those holding high offices have chosen blind loyalty to their leader [at the] expense of their constitutional responsibilities,” he wrote on Twitter.

‘Governor Punjab, President Alvi violated Constitution’

Speaking to journalists after the verdict was announced, PML-N senior leader Atta Tarar reiterated that the governor has to administer the oath by tomorrow, urging them to abide by the Constitution.

“The governor was interpreting the Constitution on his own, which was declared incorrect by the Constitution,” he said, adding that both the governor and President Arif Alvi violated the Constitution as they did not implement the order of the high court.

Last hearing

During the previous hearing, Punjab Advocate-General Ahmad Owais maintained that the Punjab Governor Omer Sarfaraz Cheema had sent a six-page letter to President Arif Alvi and expressed serious concern over the election of the chief minister, besides seeking his advice. He stated that the president had sent the recommendations of the governor to the prime minister.

The AGP also raised objections to the maintainability of the petition, saying that the president's argument had not been heard.

The argument got LHC Chief Justice Ameer Bhatti's ire who questioned what law had given the mandate to the governor to examine the validity of the chief minister’s election.

The judge remarked that the prime minister’s advice was not required in the matter, as the election was held in compliance with a judicial order.

At this, the AGP maintained that the issue of election needed to be dealt with restraint, as the election was held amid ruckus. However, the chief justice noted that the court had shown enough restraint, questioning what action had been taken on the order to appoint another representative to administer the oath to the CM-elect.

The AGP maintained that the court order was received by President Alvi three days ago. "President would look into the matter now," he added.

The chief justice observed that there was no chief executive for the past so many days in the province while expressing dismay over the inaction by the president on the high court order.

"The president, instead of implementing the judicial order, was giving explanations.

"The court had enlightened the president that he was the head of the state but he might be naive. The court had also made him understand the matter through its order but to no avail," Justice Bhatti remarked.

Meanwhile, a federal law officer informed the court that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had sent the advice to the president, asking for the court’s order to be complied with in letter and spirit.

Advocate Ashtar Ausaf on behalf of Hamza Shehbaz argued that the court orders were not being implemented. He pleaded with the court to issue directions for the implementation of its orders.

Hamza Shehbaz through the petition submitted that the LHC had expressed the hope that the president would appoint another person to administer the oath of the chief minister’s office to him while forwarding its orders to the office of the president for the purpose.