Thursday, July 14, 2022

Insufficient evidence of foreign interference: SC in judgment on Suri’s ruling

Deputy speaker’s decision to reject no-trust motion against PM was unconstitutional, says SC

  • Detailed judgement issued in suo motu notice case on ruling of NA deputy speaker on no-trust motion against Imran Khan.
  • Suo motu was taken to protect and uphold Constitution, says detailed verdict.
  • PM’s decision to dissolve assemblies was called null and void, says judgement.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has issued its detailed judgment in the suo motu case on former National Assembly deputy speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling on the no-confidence motion against ex-prime minister Imran Khan and said that court was not satisfied with the proof as insufficient evidence was presented to support PTI's claim of foreign interference.

On April 3, a vote on a no-confidence against then prime minister Imran Khan was abruptly deemed "unconstitutional" by then NA deputy speaker Suri.

However, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial took notice of the political situation in the country and subsequently called Qasim Suri's ruling unconstitutional in a short order. 

The detailed verdict consists of 86 pages and it was written by the CJP.

According to the judgment, during a meeting at CJP Umar Ata Bandial’s home, 12 member judges of the SC had recommended to take suo motu notice against an unconstitutional ruling given by Suri.

“Suo motu was taken to protect and uphold the Constitution, however the deputy speaker’s decision to reject [the] no-trust motion is unconstitutional, therefore, the PM’s decision to dissolve assemblies is null and void,” it said.

According to The News, the apex court in its detailed judgment said, “The respondents’ plea that this court should suo motu take up the defence of national security and allegation of breach of sovereignty is without precedent. Equally, in the absence of evidence prima facie demonstrating the plea of the respondents, the court lacks the jurisdiction to launch into a roving inquiry."

The court also observed in the long judgment, “No observation was made to the effect that the Resolution of No confidence (RNC) was moved by the opposition parties or by persons in Pakistan in conspiracy with a foreign state; and no inquiry/investigation was ordered into the matter to ascertain the nature or extent of involvement of any person in Pakistan to seek or receive the support of a foreign state to move the RNC.

"The reservation on the part of the NSC to recommend stronger measures against the alleged foreign conspiracy probably reflects the inadequacy of the material to take more assertive action. This perhaps also explains the lacklustre response by the PCS and the members of the treasury in their respective meeting and sitting of 31.03.2022."

The court also observed that the combined actions of the deputy speaker, PM and president left the public at large without an elected Legislature and Executive, the two crucial constitutional pillars of the State. 

Therefore, the people of Pakistan were denied their fundamental right to be governed by a constitutional parliamentary government in violation of the rule of law. Rather than following the constitutional course prescribed in Article 91(4) of the Constitution for the election of a new prime minister, the people were unlawfully forced into an election due to the prima facie unconstitutional dissolution of the NA at the hands of the deputy speaker and the PM.

"A constitutional crisis was, therefore, created in the country on 03.04.2022. The political void in governance and uncertainty that ensued affected every single citizen of Pakistan, all of whom were caught in the turmoil that loomed large in the country.

"We are of the opinion that in the above circumstances the ruling of the Deputy Speaker and the subsequent actions of the PM and president prima facie infringed the fundamental rights of the opposition parties and the public at large."

The court, in its ruling, disposed of the suo motu proceedings and the related Constitution petitions and termed since the ruling and detailed reasons of the deputy speaker and the advice of the PM to the president to dissolve the NA have been declared unconstitutional and the dissolution of the NA by the president had no legal effect. “The NA stands restored with immediate effect (in fact it is deemed to have been in existence at all times).

The Speaker is, therefore, directed to convene a sitting of the NA forthwith and conduct the business of the House as per the Orders of the Day issued for 03.04.2022.”

The judgment stated, “In fact, in our considered view the restoration of NA will strengthen the democratic norms of our political system under the Constitution, namely, Parliamentary form of Government. It does not concern the court whether the RNC against the PM succeeds or fails. Our foremost priority is the maintenance of constitutional order in the country which can only be achieved if the NA is restored and permitted to perform its functions under the Constitution. However, an NA that operates merely as a rubber stamp for the government of the day does not serve the country. 

The governance of a nation can only be dynamic and efficient if it is managed by a government that is held to account by a strong opposition. But many a times in our legal and political discourse, the significance of a healthy opposition is overlooked. Nevertheless, we find the account in Halsbury’s Laws of England (Volume 20, 2014) on the indispensability of the Opposition to a flourishing democracy.”

“It may be noticed that to prevent the decline into rule by oligarchy and to uphold the cherished principle of transparent governance, the presence of the opposition in the NA (and the Senate) is necessary. The crucial role of the opposition in a democracy was also explained by the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe in Resolution 1601 (adopted on 23.01.2008),” the judgment read.

“The Opposition Parties are a diverse combination of political parties whereas the respondents are backed by the largest party in the NA. They have huge clout by virtue of their sheer numbers and so can play a decisive role whether in the government or the opposition in order to perform their constitutional obligations faithfully and diligently so as to serve the people of Pakistan to whom they have made a solemn pledge under the Constitution.”

“However, such consequential relief may be denied by the court if it can be shown that the same will perpetuate injustice or will not be just and proper in the circumstances. Reference is made to the concurring judgement of Justice Ajmal Mian (as he then was) in the Nawaz Sharif Vs. President of Pakistan. Although Justice Ajmal Mian’s observations were made in the context of fundamental rights, we are of the view that they apply equally to situations where constitutional rights have been violated.”

“His comments,” the judgement noted, “also reinforce our view (stated in para 88 above) that in situations of proven public interest the court may deny consequential relief. Nevertheless, in the instant proceedings learned counsel for the respondents have not been able to persuade us that restoring the NA will either perpetuate injustice, be unjust and improper in the circumstances or irreparably harm any public interest.”

The order further stated that “even so being a Court of Law we must decide matters strictly in accordance with the Constitution and the law and not on the basis of expediency or individual perception. 

Therefore, if today we maintain the dissolution of NA, which has been brought about by the illegal actions of the Deputy Speaker, PM and president, we will effectively be disobeying the Constitution, specifically Article 95(2). As custodians of the Constitution [ref: Corruption in Haj Arrangements in 2010: In the matter of (PLD 2011 SC 963) at para 20], the Court cannot lend its support to any extra-constitutional measure unless a compelling public interest established by evidence and floating on the face of the record so demands," it added.

SC judgement exposes Imran Khan's lies and propaganda: PM Shehbaz

Reacting to the judgment, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the detailed judgment issued by the SC on the vote of no-confidence has "exposed the lies and propaganda" by Imran Khan and his party leaders.

In a post on Twitter, he termed it "utterly shameful" how the former premier tried to undermine the Constitution and "fabricated the narrative of regime change".

"Honourable Supreme Court's detailed judgement on Vote of No Confidence exposes the lies & propaganda indulged in by Imran Khan & Co. Utterly shameful how IK tried to undermine the Constitution & manufactured the lie of "regime change". The judgement is a must read for everyone," the premier wrote.