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Supreme Court of Pakistan
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, counsel for Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, on Monday concluded his arguments in the Speaker ruling case, DawnNews reported. The hearing was later adjourned until Tuesday.

A three-member bench, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain heard a set of constitutional petitions challenging the NA Speaker’s ruling over the reference against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The bench has been hearing a set of petitions filed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), Azhar Chaudhry advocate and others challenging the NA speaker’s ruling of May 24 over the qualification issue.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Iftikhar remarked that the court could review the speaker's ruling.

Defending the ruling, Ahsan said the speaker's ruling was in accordance with parliamentary ethics and reiterated that the ruling in the contempt of court case did not refer to a disqualification of the premier.

Morever, a written reply from Speaker National Assembly Fehmida Mirza had been submitted in the apex court by Attorney General Irfan Qadir.

In his arguments before the court, Ahsan said that under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution, the Supreme Court did not have the authority to hear the petitions in question.

The petitions filed against the speaker's ruling do not qualify for hearing, Ahsan said.
On which, the chief justice said that the petitions had stated that a convicted person was representing the people. He moreover said that the prime minister represented the public and not a party.

Ahsan said the prime minister enjoyed the same fundamental rights as any other citizen. He said the court had the authority to safeguard the rights and provide justice to the people.

Chief Justice Iftikhar said the fate of the people was in the hands of a man who had been convicted by the Supreme Court.
Ahsan said the petitioners should have first approached the high courts upon which the chief justice asked how the ruling of a seven judge Supreme Court bench could be taken to a high court.

The counsel moreover said that the court could not operate outside the parameters of its authority.

Addressing Ahsan, Chief Justice Iftikhar said: "You are an advocate of democracy and of the constitution…no system could function without the two factors."

When Ahsan referred to a case pertaining to the election of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in uniform, the chief justice said the counsel was relying on judgments over which he had expressed his opposition in the past.

"I don't know if this is coincidence or the pressure of circumstances," Justice Iftikhar said referring to Ahsan’s arguments.

However, the counsel said he was not working under any kind of pressure.

Speaker's reply to SC

In her written reply to the Supreme Court, Mirza said the court's ruling did not order that a reference on the issue should directly be sent to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The reply, a copy of which was received by DawnNews, moreover stated that as Speaker NA, she had the constitutional authority to decide over the disqualification of a member of the assembly.

The speaker stated that in accordance with the constitution, she had issued a legal ruling adding that it was not fair to say that the ruling had been delayed.

The reply said that Moulvi Iqbal Haider's reference was not based on merit which was why it had been rejected.

The speaker moreover requested the court to reject the petitions filed against her ruling.

Previous hearing

During the previous hearing held on June 15, Ahsan had supported the speaker’s ruling and said that in view of the principle of trichotomy of powers, the courts must accord the same respect to other institutions, particularly the sovereign legislature, its speaker and its leader (prime minister), as they expected for themselves.

The petitions take on the May 24 ruling in which Mirza had rejected the April 27, 2012 reference sent to her office by Haider under clause (2) of Article 63. In it, Haider had prayed that the question regarding the prime minister’s disqualification be referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan, since Gilani had already become disqualified from membership in the NA as a result of the Supreme Court conviction.