IHC dismisses Gilani's petition challenging Senate chairman election

Published March 24, 2021
Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (left) and Senate Chairman Muha­mmad Sadiq Sanjrani. — Photo courtesy The Nation/ Reuters
Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (left) and Senate Chairman Muha­mmad Sadiq Sanjrani. — Photo courtesy The Nation/ Reuters

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday dismissed a petition by former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani challenging the results of the Senate chairman election held earlier this month, noting that proceedings of the upper house of parliament were "immune from the interference" of the high court.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah presided over the hearing.

During today's hearing, the court asked Gilani's counsel, Farook H. Naek, to answer whether the validity of Senate proceedings could be called into question and whether Gilani had any other remedy available to him according to the Constitution that did not involve the judiciary.

In his judgement, Justice Minallah wrote that the "language used by the framers of the Constitution is unambiguous and effective in order to prevent a court from encroaching upon the independence of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)".

He observed that the Constitution "clearly prevents" the courts from inquiring into the validity of proceedings of the parliament. Any attempt to "interfere" in parliamentary proceedings would "undermine the dignity, prestige and independence" of the parliament and "expose the apex constitutional legislative forum to undesirable and unwarranted criticism", the IHC chief justice added.

Intrusions by the courts would affect the people's confidence in the parliament while it would also have consequences for the judiciary "because it essentially exposes the courts to deal with matters having political content", Justice Minallah said in the judgement.

"In a politically polarised environment, intervention by the courts and that too in disregard to the constitutional privileges, powers and immunities of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) is likely to have profound ramifications in the context of the confidence of the people relating to impartiality of the judicial branch."

Justice Minallah observed that the entire process of the Senate chairman election was "wholly outside" the high court's jurisdiction and declared Gilani's petition as "not maintainable".

He also observed that Gilani had the option of removing Sanjrani from the office of Senate chairman through a majority resolution in the upper house of parliament.

"This Court expects that, in order to maintain the dignity, integrity and independence of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), the chosen representatives and political leadership will endeavour to resolve disputes without involving the judicial branch of the State, by giving effect to the privileges, powers and immunities prescribed in the Constitution," the IHC judgement stated.

Gilani's petition had urged the IHC to declare the result of the election as well as the decision to make Sadiq Sanjrani the Senate chairman "null and void".

The petition had also called upon the IHC to declare the rejection of the seven votes for Gilani as unlawful and thus return him as a candidate for the office of the Senate chairman.

PPP to 'raise issue of electoral theft at every forum'

Meanwhile, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the party would continue to "knock every door and raise the issue [of electoral theft]" at every forum.

In a statement, Bilawal said that there was "no question about the supremacy of the Parliament or the Constitution". The PPP also respected the independence of the judiciary, he added.

"Theft of chairman Senate elections through foul play by a presiding officer was a litmus test for the system as it may get replicated in the future thus undermining the very credibility of the democratic institutions," the PPP chairperson said.

"This electoral theft will not be allowed to sustain," he stressed, adding that Gilani would become the Senate chairman because he had been "genuinely and legally elected".

The Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) joint-candidate for the Senate chairman election, Yousuf Raza Gilani, had lost the election to the PTI-backed Sanjrani after seven votes of his were rejected by the presiding officer.

The opposition had immediately challenged the result of the election but were overruled by the presiding officer who said the votes had been rejected because they were not stamped correctly. With a total of eight votes rejected, Gilani received 42 valid votes, while Sanjrani won the election after bagging 48 votes. In total, 98 senators voted in the election.

The issue roused controversy in the opposition ranks with the PPP vowing to challenge the result in the high court.

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