SC rejects govt’s petition to form full bench on Punjab CM election

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the coalition government’s request to form a full bench on the deputy speaker ruling pertaining to the contentious Punjab chief minister election.

A three-judge apex court bench, comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhter announced the decision on Monday after a marathon 8-hour-long hearing.

The hearing of the case was adjourned till 11:30am tomorrow (Tuesday).

The court said in the verdict that it heard arguments of all parties in detail. It said in the short order that it examined the deputy speaker’s ruling on Punjab CM elections and detailed reasons for rejecting the petitions for constituting the full court will be issued later.

The bench had earlier observed that it needed more clarity to decide on whether of to form full court bench on the matter on not.

“We need more clarity on certain things to decide about the formation of full court,” remarked Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial as the apex court resumed hearing on the case after a brief interval.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who is part of a three-member bench, remarked that the apex court wanted to hear the matter of the deputy speaker’s controversial ruling on merit before deciding about forming the full bench.

The chief justice maintained that full court had been formed in the past in the matter of utmost importance and added that the full bench could be formed if the issue lingered on.

“We believe that the full court is only constituted when the matter is complicated,” the CJP remarked.

Chief Justice Bandial said the main point of contention before the bench was that whether a party head could issue directions to his parliamentary party members or not.

The bench also allowed the counsels of PPP and PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat to present their arguments in the case.

PML-N’s counsel Irfan Qadir told the bench that Punjab CM Hamza Shehbaz and the coalition government wanted full bench to hear the matter.

He maintained that the apex court’s verdict on Article 63-A of the Constitution was contradictory and added that only Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had the authority to decide the defection of lawmakers.

“We have to see whether the party head could be a substitute to the parliamentary head as in this case party head directed the parliamentary party members,” the CJP remarked.

During the hearing, the CJP also commented on the anti-judiciary smear campaign, saying, “Social media looks towards perception instead of facts but we are not concerned about this.”

The chief justice told PPP’s counsel Farooq H Naik that his party through the 18th Constitutional Amendment empowered the parliamentary head and also cited an example of Britain that former PM Boris Johnson was also asked to step down by his party head in the parliament.

“The internal matters of parliament should not be brought before the court,” said Naek. To which Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked, “Was no-confidence motion [against ousted PM Imran Khan] parliament’s internal matter?”

“Back then you would say that the court has full authority but today you are taking different stance as you are standing on the other side,” Jusitce Ijaz told the PPP counsel. “The time and circumstances have changed today,” replied Naek.

Jusitce Ijaz maintained that the case before the bench is related to the interpretation of the Supreme Court’s order and not constitutional.

The PPP lawyer also requested the court to adjourn the hearing till Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the bench reserved its judgement on the formation of a full bench while hearing a petition by Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi against the reelection of Hamza Shahbaz as the chief minister of Punjab. Elahi was also the candidate for the chief minister’s slot.

Elahi secured 186 votes against 179 votes of PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz. However, Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari rejected 10 votes of the PML-Q lawmakers on the basis of a letter from party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who said that his party did not support Elahi.

During his remarks, the CJP also appreciated the role of CM Hamza during the by-polls on 20 Punjab Assembly seats. “The polls were conducted on the directions of the court and held peacefully.”

Commenting on the result of Punjab CM election, the CJP said a candidate who received 179 votes — less than his rival who bagged 186 votes — was declared the winner. “Such a person needs strong legal reasons to continue working as chief minister,” he remarked.

“This matter should be resolved as soon as possible so that state could function,” he added.

PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat’s lawyer Salahuddin in his arguments said that “sky will not fall” whether Hamza becomes chief minister or Pervaiz Elahi.

“But the sky will certainly fall if a few judges decide this matter,” he said while asking the bench to constitute a full bench on this matter. He added that the powers to direct the party members about voting lies with the party head.

“Ask yourself who can give instructions according to the Constitution,” said the chief justice, adding that the full court could not be formed before September.

Justice Muneeb Akhter said in a democracy, party head should not act as dictator of his party and added that the opinion of all lawmakers was important. “Decisions are taken with the consultation of the parliamentary party,” he added.

‘Leap forward’

Speaking outside the court during a 15-minute break, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said the bench conducted the case proceedings without any pressure despite “coalition parties’ attempt to influence the apex court judges”.

“The proceedings held in a very positive environment,” he added.

The former information said empowering parliamentary heads of political parties is a “leap forward” in strengthening democracy and ending the “dictatorship” within the parties.

“I am hopeful that Supreme Court will announce the verdict today.”

‘Ruling coalition to boycott court proceedings if full bench is not formed’

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, speaking to the media outside the Supreme Court, said that if the full court is not formed, the ruling coalition would boycott the court proceedings. Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar accompanied him on the occasion.

Sanaullah said that allied parties have unanimously decided that if the full bench is not formed, then we will boycott the court proceedings. “A full court should be constituted, it will increase the respect of the court, we request that the review petition and related petitions be heard together,” he stated, adding that the Election Commission of Pakistan de-seated 25 lawmakers for not obeying the instructions of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

Ex-SCBA President requests Full Bench Review

Former Supreme Court Bar (SCBA) President Latif Afridi requested the court today to consider the Article 63-A revision petitions that are currently pending and asked for “a full court” to be formed “to avoid a constitutional crisis”.

“The crisis is deepening and the system is at stake,” said Latif Afridi as he urged the court to consider hearing all pending petitions relating to Article 63A under a full bench.

Upon this, the court asked what the “legal requests for the full court” were.

“We have understood the point you are trying to raise,” Justice Munib Akhtar commented as he told Akhtar to “give the other lawyer a chance”.

Party leader vs Parliamentary Party

Hamza Shehbaz’s lawyer Mansoor Awan began his arguments today by imploring the court that “votes cast against party policy are to be rejected” was the main point under consideration.

“Party directives and declaration are two different things,” said Justice Ijazul Ahsan and questioned if the "party leader can be the leader of a parliamentary party”.

The judge observed that “the deputy speaker said that according to the SC decision, the party leader gives direction”.

“According to the SC decision, the role of the party chief is to give direction to the party,” argued lawyer Mansoor Awan, and added that “Article 63A was added to the Constitution by the 14th Amendment further elaborated by the 18th Amendment”.

He also cited a ruling made by an 8-member bench under Justice Azmat Saeed as he argued that “the party leader takes all the decisions”.

Upon this Justice Ijazul Ahsan questioned, “Can the party declaration and directives to the parliamentary party come from the same person?”. “There are two different rules regarding voting in party policy” he observed, “before the 18th Amendment, Article 63A mentioned party leader’s directives, after the 18th Amendment, the party leader was replaced by the parliamentary party”.

“Earlier there was ambiguity on the powers of the parliamentary party and party chief,” stated Justice Munib Akhtar. However, he said, “after the amendment, Article 63A empowers the parliamentary party to give directives”.

Lawyer Mansoor Awan said that “the heads of four political parties are not part of the parliamentary party”, giving the example of JUI-F, he said that the party was “named after” its chief, but he was still “not part of the parliamentary party”.

“The party head is answerable to the people, not the parliamentary party,” he argued.

“The party head’s role is very important,” observed Justice Ijazul Ahsan, as he added that “the party leader decides to send a reference against defecting members”.

However, he also said that “the parliamentary party will give instructions on who to vote for and the reference will be given by the [party] head”.

“A political party is actually the parliamentary party,” he observed, “whoever the people elect to the assembly has the mandate”.

Defecting lawmakers 'a separate issue'

Justice Ijazul Ahsan further observed that the facts of the "dissident members [case] and the facts of this case are different".

“We did not get any evidence or instructions for the position of the defecting members,” he added.

The judge said that “here the issue is different. All 10 members cast their votes. No member voted for the other side. All of them voted for the same side. Out of the 10 members, not a single one said that the parliamentary party did not meet”.

In the case of the “PTI's defecting members, Imran Khan had issued directives” but the lawmakers had claimed that they “did not receive a show-cause notice” stated Justice Ahsan.

“This was the matter in the defecting lawmaker’s appeals,” said the judge.

The chief justice also added that “in the appeals, it is not the position of the dissenting members that the instructions were not received”.

Hamza moves court to form full bench

PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz filed a petition in the Supreme Court to form a full bench on Elahi’s petition and also requested the court to hear the appeal for revision of Article 63A.

In his petition, Hamza requested the court to hear the appeals of the PTI' 'deviant' members against the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) decision along with hearing Elahi’s plea.

Read: ‘Trustee CM’ inducts 37-strong Punjab cabinet

“July 22 ruling of the deputy speaker is correct,” he maintained, adding that the PTI’s dissident lawmakers' appeals are still pending against the decision of the electoral watchdog, wherein the ECP had disqualified 25 lawmakers who had not voted in line with the party’s instructions during the April 16 election of the provincial chief executive.

According to the petition, the situation would be “radically different” if the apex court upholds the deviant members' appeals, and the votes given by the 25 deviant members are considered.

Hamza stated that since the ECP upheld Imran Khan's letter of instructions against deviant members, Chaudhry Shujaat's letter to his MPAs must also be considered “under the Constitution and the law”.

Heavy police deployment

Meanwhile, the SC implemented a ban on the entry of political leaders citing “security concerns” due to a “crowd” gathering in the court.

Sources told the Express Tribune that passes that had previously been issued to political parties were also cancelled and only parties to the case and their legal counsel were allowed to enter the court

A large number of police officials were deployed at the apex court as tensions remained high in anticipation of the SC hearing.

Large numbers of Rangers, FC and police personnel were seen on the court premises.

𝗧𝗿𝗮𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗰 𝗔𝗹𝗲𝗿𝘁

Diversion placed for both sides of traffic from Zulfiqar Chowk to G-9 Signal of Rohtas Road.

Alternatively, G-9 Service Road can be used.
— Islamabad Police (@ICT_Police) July 25, 2022

Road blockages and diversions were also placed along Zulfiqar Chowk to Rohtas Road.

سپریم کورٹ میں اہم سماعت۔

فریقین کے رہنماؤں کو سپریم کورٹ انتظامیہ کی اجازت سے کورٹ روم/سپریم کورٹ میں داخلہ دیا جائے گا۔سپریم کورٹ میں داخلے کےلیے پارٹی رہنماؤں کی جانب سےلسٹیں مہیا کی گئی ہیں۔ریڈ زون بشمول سپریم کورٹ کے اردگرد ہرگز کسی جلسے ، جلوس اور اجتماع کی اجازت نہیں۔ 1/2
— Islamabad Police (@ICT_Police) July 25, 2022

Ahead of the crucial proceedings in court today, the Islamabad Police has urged party leaders and political workers to enter the premises only with the SC’s permission.

Furthermore, the police have stated that political gatherings and processions of any sort will be “strictly not allowed”.

They stopped media and lawyers from entering the premises. “Only those whose names are on the list are allowed to enter the courtroom,” an official told lawyers trying to enter the premises.

Shujaat, PPP file petitions

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, head of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), filed applications with the SC requesting to be made a party to the deputy speaker ruling case that is currently being heard by the court.

Chaudhry Shujaat in his application to the court said that he “wrote a letter to the Deputy Speaker on July 22” and argued that Dost Mazari had “disregarded the votes on the basis of the letter”.

“The votes given to Pervez Elahi by the PML-Q MPAs were in violation of Article 63” furthered the application and requested the court to make Chaudhry Shujaat a party to the case as he was “the relevant party in the case”.

Earlier a request was also made by the PPP lawyer Farooq Naik after PML-Q leader and Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervez Elahi moved the SC over Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari’s decision to disregard the party members’ votes in the provincial chief executive’s election.

Read More: Ruling coalition seething over SC ruling on Hamza's 'trustee CM' status

The application says that the PPP being “one of the largest political parties of Pakistan ought to be affected by any decision made” by the court as it interprets Article 63-A of the Constitution of Pakistan and therefore pleaded that it was a “necessary party” to the case.

Citing senior party leader and former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani’s case where seven votes were disregarded costing him the election, the petition said the PPP leaders "have always been victims of circumstances including political maneuvering, martial laws and coups resulting in the ouster of elected governments followed by judicial murder and assassinations.”

“Thus, it would be in the interest of the public at large if the applicant is impeded as a party and heard before any order is passed by this Honourable Court while interpreting Article 63-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973,” read the application.

The PPP petition also said that if it is "not heard in this matter of great importance not only [the] PPP as a political party will be condemned unheard but also all the members” and implored the court that "refusing to hear the above-named applicant would be oppressive to judicial conscience and would cause a perpetuity of injustice which would not be tolerated by a just judicial system.”

'Shujaat's letter not received'

PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi spoke to the media outside the court and claimed that nine of the party MPAs had not received Chaudhry Shujaat's letter wherein he had requested the deputy speaker to disregard PML-Q member's votes in the Punjab CM elections.

"I have brought the nine MPAs with me to the court," said Moonis, adding that they will give their testimony in front of the bench today.

This will be updated…

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