The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday adjourned the hearing of the case pertaining to the rejection of the motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister v, till today (Wednesday) at 11:30 AM.
Deputy Speaker NA Qasim Khan Suri had disallowed the vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday — a move that the Opposition said was a blatant violation of the Constitution.
A five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel resumed hearing on Tuesday.
During the hearing, CJP Bandial also directed NA speaker’s counsel Naeem Bokhari to present the minutes of the crucial NA session held on March 31 to debate on the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.
At the outset of the hearing, PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani walked to the rostrum to present his arguments. “This is a civilian coup. A stance was created through an alleged cable which is based on malafide intent,” the Senator said, adding that the no-confidence motion against the prime minister was tabled on March 28 but the NA session was adjourned.
He maintained that Suri gave the ruling without putting the documents before the parliament on Sunday. He argued that Rule 28 says the deputy speaker cannot give a ruling even if he has the authority.
“Deputy speaker’s ruling is illegal, no-trust motion cannot be rejected without voting on it,” Rabbani said. He further stated that the deputy speaker’s ruling doesn’t have constitutional security under Article 69.
“Voting is mandatory within the given duration as per the Constitution”. PPP’s counsel said that the no-trust motion cannot be rejected under the Constitution.
“It can be dismissed only when if those who submitted it take it back and the speaker can reject it only after voting is held on it.”
Rabbani went on to say that President Dr. Arif Alvi didn’t need to file the reference seeking interpretation on Article 63A. Instead, he should have advised the prime minister to go for voting on the motion filed against him.
Rabbani requested the court to seek the minutes of the National Security Committee meeting and the cable. He also requested to form a judicial commission to probe into NA proceedings and asked for a stay on Sunday’s assembly session case.
“The court should consider the misuse of authority instead of the proceedings within the assembly and see whether the speaker can apply Article 5.”
Rabbani concluded saying that they want that the arguments are completed and the court issues a brief order today.
“We will release an order if all the parties complete the arguments,” the chief justice said in response.
After Rabbani completed his arguments, PML-N’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan Advocate presented his arguments before the court.
He narrated the NA’s proceedings since the session of March 28 when leader of the Opposition Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif was allowed to table the no-trust resolution against PM Imran Khan till April 3, the day fixed for voting on the motion.
Khan said that a debate had to be held on the no-trust motion on March 31’s session under Rule 37 but it didn’t happen. He asked if Suri, as the deputy speaker, had the authority to dismiss the resolution in this way.
“The entire case is based on the question whether the deputy speaker can give such a ruling,” he added. Khan contended that majority of the MNAs supported the resolution of no-confidence against PM Imran Khan as 161 lawmakers favoured it.
Moreover, he said that the session couldn’t be further adjourned after a motion of no-confidence is filed against NA Speaker Asad Qaiser.
Justice Munib Akhtar inquired if Article 69 encompasses the NA Rules regarding the authorities of the speaker.
At this, Khan said that NA Rules for running the assembly affairs and no rule contradicts the method stated under Article 95.
Justice Akhtar inquired if Articles 91 and 95 give the speaker the Constitutional security over the procedural defect.
Khan responded to the query by saying that the deputy speaker doesn’t have the authority to reject the no-trust motion therefore Suri has committed Constitutional manipulation.
“The Constitution is silent on the procedure of submitting a no-confidence motion,” Justice Akhtar remarked.
He asked if the speaker loses authority after a motion of no-confidence bearing support of 20% MNAs is filed and he could only hold polls on the motion after that.
At this, Khan replied that Article 95 doesn’t apply if it is assumed that no member supports the prime minister except for the speaker.
The PML-N counsel maintained that the speaker’s ruling is unconstitutional as it is against Article 95, therefore it can be reviewed.
“Only the House can decide if the prime minister can continue to serve his post or not.”
Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel inquired if the court can review the ruling passed by a deputy speaker. “Can a judicial review reverse the speaker’s ruling or investigate the illegal acts regarding the no-confidence motion,” he asked.
To this, Khan responded positively saying that the apex court can review an unconstitutional ruling and nullify it.
At this, Justice Akhtar inquired: “Does the Constitution say that the SC can issue a verdict on every illegal act committed within the Parliament?”
“You are opening the doors of court for the Parliament’s proceedings after which the court will have the authority to interfere in the Parliament’s affairs over petty issues. There will be piles of cases if the apex court started ruling out the NA proceedings or rulings,” he added.
The PML-N’s counsel also said that the deputy speaker did not give the opposition a chance to speak during the session held on April 3 and gave the floor to the former information minister.
At that, Justice Akhtar said that the process of the no-confidence motion was underlined in the rules of procedure, not the Constitution. However, Khan argued that rules were formed on the basis of the Constitution.
Continuing his argument, the PML-N lawyer said that the no-confidence motion can’t be dismissed by the speaker once it is tabled in the NA.
At one point, the CJP asked whether a debate was held on the no-confidence move, to which the PML-N lawyer replied that it was not.
Justice Bandial also asked whether a majority of lawmakers were present in Parliament when the no-confidence resolution against the prime minister was tabled, noting that it required the support of 20pc of the lawmakers.
He observed that constitutional provisions cannot be trampled through rules.
Justice Mandokhail added that the real question was whether the deputy speaker’s ruling was legal or illegal. “The real issue is to examine the constitutional status of the ruling,” he said.
He also questioned whether “illegal factors” in the no-confidence motion could be investigated, to which the PML-N lawyer replied that the apex court had the right to do so.
CJP Umar Ata Bandial said that the Supreme Court did not want to get into the investigation of policy matters as it only wanted to ascertain the constitutionality of the steps taken by the deputy speaker for the dismissal of the no-confidence of motion and subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly.
Chief Justice Bandial said, “Our sole focus is on the ruling of the deputy speaker…it is our priority to decide on that particular issue.”
The apex court wanted to see if the ruling of the deputy speaker could be reviewed by the bench, the top judge said. “The court does not interfere in the state matters and foreign affairs,” he said, adding that the SC will merely decide on the legitimacy of the speaker’s action. “We will ask all parties to focus on this point,” the CJ added.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said the court at present was concerned with constitutional matters only.
PML-N lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan, while alluding to the foreign conspiracy, said if the Supreme Court wanted to check the loyalty of opposition parties’ members then the bench may get a briefing in the chamber from the head of the premier agency of the country.
“We will listen to the attorney general and get back to you in case of questions,” the SC judge responded.
Makhdoom said that Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling is against the letter and spirit of the constitution. He said that Article 95 had been left redundant by this ruling. The lawyer said that Article 69 of the constitution did not provide cover for such an unconstitutional ruling.
However, Justice Munib Akhtar wondered that if the court opened the door by adjudicating the speaker’s ruling then every act of the speaker would be challenged in the superior courts.
Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail asked whether the ruling was illegal or came under the purview of a procedural lapse. The counsel said it was not a procedural lapse but also unconstitutional.
He also questioned the nomination of ex-chief justice Gulzar Ahmed as caretaker PM by the PTI at this time when the bench is adjudicating the matter. The lawyer added making Imran Khan the interim PM was not in accordance with the Constitution either.
The court adjourned for a prayer break after Makhdoom Khan completed his arguments.
After the break, lawyers representing PPP’s Nayyar HUssain Bukhari and Awami National Party presented their arguments wherein they endorsed the arguments made by Makhdoom Ali Khan.
The petitioners have completed their arguments in the case whereas PTI lawyer Babar Awan said he would argue before the court on Wednesday. Barrister Ali Zafar will represent President Dr. Arif Alvi in the case. Imtiaz Qureshi said he will represent PM Imran Khan. At this, Justice Jamal Mandokhel said how would he represent Imran as the prime minister after his identification.
Attorney General of Pakistan Barrister Khalid Jawed Khan informed the bench he would deliver his arguments on Thursday after the conclusion of the lawyers’ arguments. He said he wanted to brief the court in detail as the case pertained to national security. Justice Ijazul Ahsan said, “Though the time is running out, the court cannot decide the case in haste.” CJP Bandial said the bench would try to issue an order by today (Wednesday
The court adjourned the hearing till 11:30 AM today (Wednesday) as the hearing could not be completed on Tuesday.