ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Monday asked the petitioners to explain how, and convince the Supreme Court that the April 3 ruling by National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri on the no-confidence resolution against the prime minister was illegal.

Justice Munib Akhtar observed that, under House rules, the deputy speaker went beyond his jurisdiction by issuing the ruling on the no-trust motion.

Read: Detailed ruling alleges opposition ‘nexus’ with foreign powers

CJP Bandial, who was presiding over a five-judge larger bench that had taken up suo motu notice of the matter, as well as a number of petitions filed by various parties, observed that it seemed that the question of illegality in the filing of the no-trust motion could have been addressed earlier, but once the leave of the house was granted, then the stage of raising objections had passed.

Concluding Monday’s proceedings, the CJP wondered why opposition members failed to attend the meeting of the parliamentary committee on national security, during which contents of the ‘threat letter’ were shared with parliamentarians.

CJP seeks arguments on how Suri’s ruling on no-trust is ‘illegal’; asks why opposition stayed away from parliamentary committee meeting

Former law minister Senator Farooq H. Naek, representing the PPP, PML-N and JUI-F in a joint petition, highlighted the urgency of the matter and requested the court to wrap up the case on Monday since President Dr Arif Alvi had issued a notification requiring Imran Khan to continue as interim prime minister under Article 224A(4) of the Constitution.

However, the case was adjourned until today (Tuesday), when PPP Senator Raza Rabbani and senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan will present their arguments and the court is likely to announce its decision.

At the outset of the hearing, Mr Naek requested the CJP that even though it was his prerogative to constitute the bench, in view of the grave emergency and public importance, the court should consider constituting a full court consisting of all judges, as had been done in the past.

At this, the CJP told the counsel that if he had no confidence in any member of the bench, the court would rise, adding that the full court was a luxury and during the last two years “we have suffered since 10,000 cases accumulated because of 63 hearings in the Justice Qazi Faez Isa case by a 10-judge bench”.

Farooq Naek emphasised that on a day when voting on the no-confidence motion had to be conducted during the NA session on April 3, allegations could not be raised against opposition members by invoking Article 5 of the Constitution, which demands loyalty to the state. The voting on no-confidence motion against the premier was different from the impeachment of the president, where the charge was announced first.

The counsel argued that the no-trust motion was moved on March 8 along with a requisition for summoning the National Assembly session under Article 54(3) of the Constitution within 14 days — a period which expired on March 21.

On March 25, the deputy speaker summoned the session and adjourned it till March 28 when the no-trust motion was submitted and leave was granted by the deputy speaker and voting on the motion was fixed for April 3.

The counsel said former law minister Fawad Chaudhry made a brief speech on the ‘threat letter’ allegedly received from a foreign country and immediately after that, the deputy speaker read out a ruling to prorogue the assembly session without any vote count.

Mr Naek emphasised that the ruling by the deputy speaker came without any discussion, adding that a plain reading of Rule 28 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly suggested that only the speaker can give a ruling, since the deputy speaker was merely a presiding officer.

The counsel contended that at the time of the ruling, 198 lawmakers, including 175 opposition members, were sitting in the assembly hall and that the ruling amounted to condemning unheard the members who signed the no-trust motion as ‘traitors’.

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel asked when the April 3 session was fixed for a vote on the no-trust motion, could any other matter be discussed.

The counsel replied that only votes should have been counted on April 3.

The CJP observed that the counsel was canvassing as if no ground was available to the deputy speaker to strike down the no-trust motion.

Mr Naek regretted that earlier, religion and allegations of treachery were used against political opponents, and now a new concept had emerged of painting the opponents with the allegations of colluding with foreign states. Such tendencies were not good for democratic traditions in the country, he added.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2022

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