Speaker can circumvent law to 'save' Pakistan, SC told

The Supreme Court bench on Thursday resumed hearing of the suo motu case against the ruling issued by the deputy speaker of the National Assembly that dismissed a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday.

The case is being heard by a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and includes Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan.

The top court had taken notice of the ruling and the subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly by President Arif Alvi on the advice of the premier pushing the country into a constitutional crisis.

Read SC will only focus on Suri’s ruling: CJP

During the hearing, Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan and Speaker Asad Qaiser's lawyer Naeem Bukhari will argue before the bench today. The apex court, since the first day, has been saying that it would want to resolve the case at the earliest but not without hearing all the parties first.

It is expected a ruling will be announced today.

'Speaker can cirumvent law to save Pakistan'

At the outset of the hearing, PM Imran’s counsel Imtiaz Siddiqui argued that the scrutiny of parliamentary proceedings was beyond the mandate of judiciary. “The court should ask parliament to clean up its mess,” he added.

CJ Bandial said the premier left the country in a lurch by announcing snap elections in 90 days and added that, according to the petitioners, the speaker could not have ruled before March 28 before leave was granted for the no-trust motion to be moved.

“What will you say on this,” Justice Bandial asked.

The PM’s counsel added that the opposition did not object to the deputy speaker chairing the session. “The deputy speaker [Qasim Suri] used his mind to come on a decision he considered better,” the lawyer said, adding that the speaker was not answerable to the court.

CJ Bandial said the court will review to what extent the proceedings were protected under Article 69.

The lawyer said if the speaker had knowledge of a foreign-backed regime-change plot or a threat to national security then he could circumvent the law to “save the country”. The speaker made a “perfect decision in accordance with his oath”, he said, asserting that it was an “internal parliamentary matter”.

“If you read Article 69 with Article 127 then you will see that parliamentary proceedings are completely protected,” the lawyer said, adding that the top court could not interfere in parliament.

Justice Munib Akhtar said the court was not bound to follow the decision that was referred to by the counsel. The lawyer said, “With due respect, you [five-member bench] are bound to follow the decisions of a seven-member bench.” The verdicts that were being alluded to only had observations and the court was not bound to follow “observations in verdicts,” Justice Munib added.

PM’s lawyer Siddiqui said the speaker made the National Security Committee meeting the basis of his decision. “Did the speaker have some material [to prove conspiracy] to reach this decision,” the CJ asked. “Was it based on good faith,” he further asked.

Justice Bandial asked, “When did the deputy speaker receive the minutes of the NSC.” This PM’s counsel expressed ignorance. “Then kindly don’t comment on things you don’t know,” the CJ rebuked.

According to the counsel, the speaker had the relevant material on the basis of which he ruled against the no-trust vote, the CJ said. “The PM breached Article 58…what will be the consequences,” he asked.

The speaker had no issue about voting on March 28 but on the day of voting, April 3, he gave the ruling to dismiss the motion. “Why didn’t he reject it on March 28,” the judge asked. “If the assembly was not dissolved, the house could have rolled back the ruling of the speaker,” Justice Ijazul Ahsan added.

“The PM took advantage of the situation and dissolved the National Assembly,” Justice Ahsan added.

After the conclusion of arguments by Siddiqui, Naeem Bukhari, the counsel representing the deputy speaker, started giving arguments.

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