Khawaja Asif’s production order issue should be decided by parliament, IHC rules

Published February 4, 2021
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Dec 29, 2020 arrested Khawaja Asif in an assets beyond means case. —Reuters/File
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Dec 29, 2020 arrested Khawaja Asif in an assets beyond means case. —Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah on Wednesday observed that the matter related to issuance of production order of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart Khawaja Mohammad Asif would be decided in the parliament.

The IHC chief justice passed this observation while hearing the petition of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain, seeking implementation of the production order he issued to procure attendance of incarcerated Khawaja Mohammad Asif, who is also member of the PAC.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Dec 29, 2020 arrested Khawaja Asif in an assets beyond means case.

PAC chairman Rana Tanveer Hussain filed the petition through Barrister Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha.

He asserted that PAC chairman had issued production order, dated Feb 1, 2021, to enable Khawaja Asif to attend the proceedings of the committee. He is aggrieved because the secretary of the National Assembly is refusing to enforce the production order issued by him.

Justice Minallah inquired whether before invoking the jurisdiction of the court under Article 199 of the Constitution, remedies available under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007 were exhausted?

The court has no reason to doubt the matter cannot be resolved by legislators, CJ says

Mr Ranjha was also asked whether the worthy National Assembly speaker was approached to resolve the matter? The answer was in the negative.

Justice Minallah noted that ‘from the answer, it does not appear that an effort was made to resolve the issue by approaching the forums and resorting to the dispute resolution mechanism implicit under the Constitution and the Rules of 2007.

He observed that “there is bar of jurisdiction under Article 69 of the Constitution”.

Citing an earlier judgement in the M/s BNP case, Justice Minallah pointed out that “the proceedings of Public Accounts Committee fall within the ambit of the expression ‘internal proceedings of the Majlis-i-Shoora (Parliament)’…this court has reiterated the importance of the bar contained under Article 69 of the Constitution. It is noted that Majlis-i-Shoora (Parliament) is the supreme legislative organ of the State…. It represents the people of Pakistan and its respect and effectiveness depends on the ability of each member to resolve disputes without involving the courts.”

The leader of the lower house and members of the treasury benches have an onerous duty to ensure that the parliament functions effectively because they command majority, the court order said, adding that the security and integrity of Pakistan also depended on the institutional strength and sovereignty of the Parliament.

The intervention of the judicial branch of the State eroded the confidence of the people in the sovereign status of the parliament.

It reflects adversely on the political leadership of the people. Political controversies ought to be resolved by political leadership and it is their duty to ensure that no one has a justifiable reason to involve the judicial branch in matters which fall within the domain of the legislature, the court order added.

“This court has no reason to doubt that the matter brought before this court cannot be resolved by the elected representatives without judicial intervention. This court, therefore, exercises restraint and expects that the petitioner will endeavour to resolve the matter before the internal forums of the Majlis-i-Shoora (Parliament) provided under the Constitution and the Rules of 2007,” the court order went on to state.

Further hearing in the matter has been adjourned till Feb 23.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2021

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