LHC issues notices to Hamza, others on petitions challenging his election as CM

Published May 20, 2022
Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz. — Photo courtesy Twitter
Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz. — Photo courtesy Twitter

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday issued notices to Hamza Shehbaz and others on separate petitions filed by the PTI and PML-Q's Chaudhry Parvez Elahi requesting the court to declare his election as Punjab chief minister "illegal" and to restrain him from working in that capacity.

The PTI had filed a petition yesterday, while Punjab Assembly speaker Elahi submitted his today, which his lawyer, Safdar Shaheen Pirzada, said in a comment to Dawn.com is identical to PTI's.

During the hearing, LHC Chief Justice Mohammad Ameer Bhatti clubbed the petitions together.

Hamza was elected as the Punjab CM on April 16, during a provincial assembly session that was marred by mayhem. He received a total of 197 votes — 11 more than the required 186 — including from 25 dissident PTI MPAs that were crucial for his victory.

The PML-N leader faced several delays in assuming charge of the CM Office because of then Punjab governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema's refusal to administer him oath.

Hamza approached the LHC thrice, seeking directions for his oath to be administered. He was finally sworn in on April 30, by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.

During the hearing today, PTI's counsel Barrister Ali Zafar argued that in order to win the election for the chief minister, a candidate requires 186 votes.

He referred to the Supreme Court's interpretation of Article 63-A, related to the disqualification of lawmakers over defection, in which the apex court said the vote of defecting lawmakers would not be counted.

Subsequently, the court issued notices to the respondents which include Hamza, Punjab chief secretary, Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari, Punjab governor's principal secretary and Punjab Assembly's secretary.

Justice Bhatti also asked that the court be informed from when the SC's interpretation of Article 63-A would be applicable.

The hearing was then adjourned till May 25.

Elahi's plea

In his petition, Elahi, who was also the PTI-PML-Q's candidate for the CM Office, requested the court to declare that Hamza was not the chief minister since he had failed to secure the requisite number of votes in light of the SC's interpretation stating the votes of defecting lawmakers would not be counted.

Therefore, the April 16 election, its results and the certificate issued by the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker to Hamza declaring his victory had "no legal effect", the petition stated.

The petition requested the high court to declare "all consequential actions taken by [Hamza] in his purported capacity as the chief minister Punjab and all and any other communications made, orders passed and notifications issued etc., consequential upon the declaration of the afore-mentioned result and issuing the set certificate ... to be null and void".

Read: After SC opinion on Article 63-A, what's the status of Punjab CM election?

PTI's petition

The PTI petition was filed by MPAs Mohammad Sibtain Khan, Zainab Umair, Mian Mohammad Aslam Iqbal, Syed Abbas Ali Shah and Ahsan Saleem Baryar.

It stated that the session held for conducting the election witnessed "immense chaos and most unfortunate events".

Deputy Speaker Mazari took "unlawful" aid from the police and provincial officials for holding a "sham and fraudulent" election, following which he communicated that Hamza had won, the petition said.

It noted that votes of 25 dissident PTI MPAs were also counted in the final tally for Hamza. While the then governor Cheema had refused to accept the election results, Hamza was administered the oath due to "judicial overreach", it contended.

"As per the investigation conducted by the [then] honourable governor of Punjab, the respondent secretary of the provincial assembly has tendered a report detailing the various dimensions of the election held on 16.04.2022 and has categorically informed the [then] honourable governor that the referred elections were/are unlawful; thus consequently the certificate issued by the respondent deputy speaker/acting speaker was/is without any lawful sanction/legal authority," the petition reads.

According to the petition, Hamza's election was in violation of the Constitution and the Rules of Business of the Punjab Assembly. It recalled that Hamza had approached the LHC for holding the election, adding that he treated it as an urgent matter because he had the support of 25 dissident PTI MPAs, which was a violation of Article 63 of the Constitution.

An analysis of the Supreme Court's interpretation would lead to the conclusion that the chief minister's election was unlawful, it stated.

"On this ground alone and keeping in view the scope and intent behind Article 63-A of the Constitution, the election held on 16.04.2022 [should] be declared as being without lawful authority and consequently be struck down."

The petition also claimed that the election had lost its sanctity because the assembly floor was occupied like a "beehive by private unwanted persons, including civilians, ghundas (thugs), guests, persons of various agencies and local police".

In addition, voters had been intimidated and forced to cast their votes in Hamza's favour, it stated.

The petition also stated that members who were going to vote for PTI-PML-Q's candidate Chaudhry Parvez Elahi were "pushed out" from the gallery and therefore, could not participate in the election.

The petition requested the LHC to declare Hamza's election void ab initio (illegal) "in the interest of justice and fair play".

It also requested the court to declare the office of the chief minister vacant and stop Hamza from working and portraying himself as the chief executive.

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