time Saturday Jul 23 2022

Elahi's plea against Mazari's ruling: SC directs Hamza Shahbaz to work as 'trustee' CM till Monday

Lahore Branch Registry — Supreme Court of Pakistan. — SC website
Lahore Branch Registry — Supreme Court of Pakistan. — SC website

  • Apex court adjourns hearing till Monday.
  • SC directs deputy speaker to submit written response.
  • CJP Bandial says it seems deputy speaker gave ruling against SC's decision.

LAHORE: The Supreme Court of Pakistan Saturday directed Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz to work as a trustee CM till Monday (July 25) during a hearing on PML-Q leader Pervez Elahi's petition against Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari's ruling in the provincial CM’s election.

The apex court further directed Hamza to work in accordance with the law and the Constitution until then, adding that he was not allowed to use his power as chief minister in any way that would benefit him personally.

The court, in its verbal order, has said that the chief minister's powers will be limited. 

"All the appointments will be merit-based and those made without merit will be nullified," it was added.

The Supreme Court said that the chief minister will not do anything for political gain and that the court will keep a check on him.

Arguments presented by deputy speaker's advocate

During the hearing, which was held via video link, the court asked Advocate General Punjab Shahzad Shaukat on what basis was he defending the ruling of the deputy speaker — who rejected 10 votes of PML-Q citing Article 63(A). The advocate general Punjab said that the case is being defended on the basis of the decision announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Advocate Irfan Qadir — who is representing the deputy speaker — said that the Supreme Court in its decision taken on PTI’s petition regarding vote of defiant members had ruled that vote of dissident members would not be counted.

However, Chief Justice Bandial said: “We would not reconsider the verdict announced on May 17 as it has not been challenged here yet.”

He said that the deputy speaker citing SC’s verdict did not reject PML-Q’s 10 votes therefore the defending advocate should only highlight the part where this has been written.

Addressing advocate Qadir he said that you are a senior lawyer and should know where the deputy speaker took reference for his ruling; the advocate, however, tried to defend the loopholes by saying that he was only appointed two hours before the hearing.

Adding to the argument, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan asked advocate Qadir to read the para which was cited by the deputy speaker.

“According to Article 3(1)A, votes of dissident members would not be counted, this was the court’s investigation,” he read. To this Justice Ahsan said that this was the court’s verdict and not an investigation.

Advocate Qadir said that the deputy speaker considered it correct not to count PML-Q’s votes in the light of the Supreme Court’s decision, he thought that the party head is considered the parliamentary head of the party.

Justice Ahsan asked the advocate that for instance if the deputy speaker misunderstood the SC’s earlier verdict and what would be the outcome? Advocate Qadir said that there is no dispute on the facts; however, he cannot make confession statements because of his fear of the court.

CJP Bandial said that it seems that the deputy speaker gave the ruling against the court's decision. 

"The deputy speaker is answerable on what basis did he give the ruling," he added.

The court ordered Mazari as well as the Punjab government to submit a written and comprehensive reply.

During the hearing, CJP Bandial asked Mazari's counsel whether he has brought the record or not.

“We want to see the letter written by the party head,” CJP Bandial said, adding that under Article 63(1)A, the parliamentary party has been given a separate identity therefore the court wants to see the letter.

How the hearing proceeded 

The decision to conduct the hearing via video link was made after the courtroom door was damaged following a rush of people trying to get through.

The video link room was opened and only the respondents' lawyers were allowed to be present in person.

The media was not allowed to enter the courtroom.

A three-member bench — headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar — was holding the hearing at the Supreme Court's Lahore registry.

The court had summoned Mazari, and sent notices to Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz, the Punjab chief secretary and the advocate general for Punjab.

Barristers Ali Zafar, Imtiaz Siddiqui, and Safdar Shaheen Advocate appeared on behalf of Elahi, while Advocate Mansoor Usman Awan was representing Hamza Shahbaz.

Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman and Advocate General Punjab Shahzad Shaukat had appeared for judicial assistance.

PTI leaders present in the courtroom included Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhary, Omar Ayub, Zulfi Bukhari, Sibtain Khan, Umar Sarfraz Cheema, Usman Buzdar and Andalib Abbas.

The top court also sent notices to Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz, the Punjab chief secretary and the advocate general for Punjab.

As the hearing began, the chief justice asked Mazari's lawyer if he has the waqalat naama (power of attorney) for Mazari, to which Advocate Qadir replied in the affirmative.

The first half of the hearing

Prior to the court being adjourned in the morning, PTI's counsel Barrister Ali Zafar informed the court that during yesterday's Punjab Assembly session, re-election of the province's chief minister took place.

Justice Ahsan asked the lawyer how many lawmakers were present during the session, to which he responded that 370 members of the assembly were in attendance.

Zafar argued that Elahi secured 186 votes and Hamza bagged 179 votes, therefore, in line with the Constitution of Pakistan, the PML-Q leader is the chief minister.

The SC's opinion in the May order, Zafar said, states that the parliamentary party can give directions to lawmakers on whom to vote for, and the PML-Q's parliamentary party decided to back Elahi, but despite that, Mazari dismissed 10 PML-Q votes.

"They ignored the parliamentary party's decision," Zafar said.

At this, the chief justice said that all the relevant parties — deputy speaker, chief minister, and Punjab attorney-general — should be issued notices so they can provide their version.

"We wish to personally hear from the deputy speaker. Only the deputy speaker can tell us which paragraph he was referring to," Justice Bandial said.

CJP Bandial said that the deputy speaker should come to the court with all the relevant documents and not be "frightened" as this is "just a legal procedure".

The CJP then adjourned the hearing till 2:30pm. Later, a short order was issued by the court.

"The matter in issue seems more likely to be a controversy regarding the proper understanding or comprehension of the statement of law in our aforesaid judgement (paragraph 3 in Article 63A's order) rather than of interpretation as such of a constitutional provision," the short written order read.

‘SC nullified Hamza’s oath’

After the day's proceedings concluded, former information minister and senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry told the media persons that the entire country is condemning the ruling of the deputy speaker, adding that the lawyers have declared it “illegal”.

Highlighting the numbers, he said that the candidate who secured 186 votes is being sent into the Opposition while Hamza who secured 179 votes has been given the chief ministership of the province.

Fawad further added that the letter on the basis of which Mazari gave his ruling was a “secret” letter and only the deputy speaker knew about its content as it is unclear whether Shujaat also knows about the letter or not?

He mentioned that the SC verbal order today nullified Hamza’s oath taken today.

‘Person who lost elections will serve as caretaker CM’

Taking to his Twitter handle, former planning minister and PTI leader Asad Umar said that the person who according to the SC’s decision today was “never elected” as the chief minister and the person who lost the election in front of the entire nation will serve as the “caretaker CM for two days.”

‘Deputy speaker played the role of toy’

Speaking to journalists outside the premises of the court, PTI leader Farrukh Habib said that Hamza will work as a “trustee” CM till the final verdict is announced by the Supreme Court.

He further added that the deputy speaker played the role of “toy that is played with the help of a key”.

PML-N demands full bench hear petition

On the other hand, senior PML-N leader Ataullah Tarar demanded that since this is a matter related to the interpretation of the Constitution, a full bench should hear the petition.

Senior PML-N leader Ataullah Tarar speaks to journalists in Lahore, on July 23, 2022. — YouTube/PTVNewsLive
Senior PML-N leader Ataullah Tarar speaks to journalists in Lahore, on July 23, 2022. — YouTube/PTVNewsLive

The PML-N leader said that court hearings related to constitutional matters that have taken place recently — since the no-confidence motion against ex-prime minister Imran Khan — warrant a full bench.

"Therefore, with the utmost respect, I request that a full bench be constituted to hear this case as well," the PML-N leader said.

Lashing out at the PTI, Tarar asked how the people who were responsible for the ongoing constitutional crisis could justifiably approach the Supreme Court to resolve their issues.

Later, a joint statement was issued by the coalition parties, urging the chief justice to constitute a full bench to hear the case.

What Mazari did

The deputy speaker rejected 10 votes of the PML-Q, citing the apex court's opinion in the presidential reference for the interpretation of Article 63A, dealing a major blow to Pervez Elahi and paving the way for Hamza Shahbaz to retain the chief minister's slot.

Opposition (PTI and PML-Q) candidate Elahi managed to receive 186 votes, but after the deputy speaker's ruling, the PML-Q leader got only 176 votes, whereas Hamza received 179 votes.

The petition was filed late last night after the Opposition — which was confident of a victory — suffered the setback and vowed to challenge the ruling.

SC order on Article 63(A)

The Supreme Court of Pakistan, back in May, had ruled that the votes of dissident members of the Parliament (MPs), cast against their parliamentary party's directives, cannot be counted.

The apex court, issuing its verdict on the presidential reference seeking the interpretation of Article 63(A) of the Constitution related to defecting lawmakers of the PTI, said that the law cannot be interpreted in isolation.

During yesterday's ruling, Article 63(A) was applied after PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain wrote a letter to the deputy speaker, saying that he had directed the party to vote for Hamza Shahbaz.

The ruling has invited criticism from legal wizards as several believe that Mazari's decision was not in line with the Supreme Court's order.