The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday directed National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf to administer the oath to Punjab Chief Minister-elect Hamza Shehbaz tomorrow (Saturday) at 11:30am.
Justice Jawad Hassan issued the nine-page written order after earlier reserving the verdict. The PML-N leader had sought the court's intervention for a third time over his oath-taking process and had filed a petition seeking the administration of oath to him by "a person nominated by the court" owing to the "defiant attitude" of President Arif Alvi and the province's governor, Omar Sarfraz Cheema.
At the outset of the hearing, Justice Hassan asked about the order passed by the LHC CJ. Subsequently, Hamza's counsel, Khalid Ishaq, read the order out loud and told the court that the president and the Punjab governor were blatantly violating the Constitution.
Justice Hassan remarked that no one should have the audacity to flout the court's directives. "This concerns the respect of the high court and Pakistan's judiciary," he said.
He also regretted the fact that two orders passed by the high court were not implemented, adding that he would make a decision based on the Constitution.
Hamza's lawyer told the court that LHC had issued directives for holding the chief minister's election. He added that the governor was refusing to administer the oath to the chief minister-elect in contravention of the court's directives.
When the hearing continued after a short break, Justice Hassan asked why the petitioner had not made the president and the Punjab governor respondents in the case. At this, Hamza's lawyer replied by saying there was no need to make them respondents in the case.
Meanwhile, Punjab Additional Advocate General Umair Niazi contended that proceedings could only move forward once the Punjab advocate general was issued a notice under Article 27-A of the Constitution.
"The Punjab governor has sent the matter to the president. How can he administer the oath when the matter is with the president?" he asked.
He told the court that the Senate chairman could also administer the oath. "But according to my information, he is currently not in the country," he said. He added that the president or the Punjab governor could administer the oath or appoint a representative to do the same.
The court had reserved the verdict after hearing the arguments.
Hamza files third petition
This was the third time that Hamza — who was elected as Punjab's chief executive on April 16 during a provincial assembly session marred by mayhem — sought LHC's intervention over his oath-taking process as the Punjab governor continues to refrain from administering oath to him, questioning the validity of his election, and President Alvi is yet to nominate another individual to perform the duty, as directed by the high court earlier.
In a petition filed on Friday, Hamza contended that the governor and president had proved themselves to be "guided by whims and fantasies instead of law and Constitution" by refusing to abide by the court's orders on his previous two petitions.
The PML-N leader had first approached the court after Cheema refused to administer oath to him. After hearing the arguments, the court had instructed President Alvi to appoint a representative to administer the oath in the absence of the governor.
However, after further delay by the president, Hamza had moved the court again on April 25. This time, he had asked the LHC to instruct Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to administer oath to him. In his ruling, LHC CJ Ameer Bhatti had directed Governor Cheema to complete Hamza's oath-taking process by April 28.
In the third petition submitted today, the CM-elect said: "No heed has been paid to the direction issued by the constitutional court and the governor and president are harping on the same looney tunes of their purported notions which have already been condemned and deprecated as transgression of constitutional mandate."
The conduct and actions of the governor and the president were "contemptuous and treasonous" as they held in abeyance the constitutional provisions and mandate by unconstitutional means, the petition stated.
"Such blatant contemptuous conduct requires the initiation of proceedings under Article 6 and Article 204 of the Constitution ahead of all other actions."
Hamza also highlighted that Punjab had been functioning without an active government for nearly a month now and pleaded the court to "end the constitutional crisis".
"Article 199(1)(C) empowers this honourable court to enforce fundamental rights. The judicial branch has long been described as the 'balancing branch' and our courts are the balance wheels of our entire constitutional system," he said.
Subsequently, the CM-elect requested that his petition be taken up on the above mentioned grounds in the interest of justice, equity and in order to restore constitutional functioning of the province.
"Kindly direct the administration of oath to the chief minister-elect by a person nominated by this honourable court at the Governor House at a specified time and the coercive arm of the state be set in motion for implementation of the orders of this honourable court," the petition prayed.
It added that the defiant attitude of Cheema and President Alvi should be declared to be "utter and blatant violations of the Constitution".