ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court annulled on Tuesday the ruling of Dost Muhammad Mazari, the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker, over rejecting PML-Q votes and ordered the Punjab governor to administer the oath of office to PML-Q’s Pervez Elahi at 11:30pm (Tuesday).
President Arif Alvi in a midnight ceremony administered the oath of office to Parvez Elahi at President’s House, Islamabad. Pervez flew from Lahore to Islamabad for the swearing in ceremony as the apex court had asked the president to administer the oath, in case Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman was “unable or unwilling” to do so.
Rehman had excused from administering the oath of office to Pervez. The ceremony was attended by PTI and PML-Q leaders.
Earlier a three-member bench reserved its verdict on Elahi’s petition challenging Mazari’s July 22 ruling in the provincial chief minister election. The court reserved the verdict with Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandyal saying that the decision would be announced at 5:45pm. However, the verdict was announced after a three-hour delay via short order.
The apex court in its 11-page short order accepted Elahi’s plea and declared him as Punjab chief minister.
The court in its short order said that the formation of the Punjab cabinet and the election of Hamza as chief minister was illegal.
It also ordered the Punjab chief secretary to immediately issue Elahi’s notification as Punjab chief minister.
“Likewise all acts, deeds and things attendant and consequent upon such oath including but not limited to the notification of Respondent No.2 (Hamza Shahbaz) and the formation and swearing in of the Cabinet on his advice is also declared to be without lawful authority and of no legal effect,” the order stated.
On Saturday, Pervez had filed a petition against the ruling of the Punjab Deputy speaker after which Hamza retained his post of the chief minister of the province.
Earlier in the day PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry claimed that some journalists guided the coalition government to blame the judiciary and institutions for their apparent shortcomings.
“They [the coalition government and allies] tried to blackmail the court,” the PTI leader said outside the court.
“I still think we should go for general elections and not put much political burden on the judiciary,” he said, “I think the decision is simple and there are no complications.”
“This was a good gesture that he wanted to take this matter in a transparent manner before the court,” Ali Zafar, Pervaiz Elahi’s lawyer, said outside the Supreme Court.
All the lawyers’ points of view had come in writing, he added. “The judges asked some serious and interesting questions from me,” he said, “I think the court tried its best to hear despite a boycott from another side.”
“No party can make such a demand. The demand for the full court bench was not justified,” he said and used a cricket metaphor for explaining his argument. “The full court cannot be formed on every case. Such a demand is reserved for special cases.”
He described the prevailing situation in Punjab as a “big crisis”. The point was what the Constitution said, he asserted, adding that former deputy speaker of NA Qasim Suri’s ruling was “against Constitution”. He added that his party did not boycott the court proceedings at that time.
The Supreme Court had adjourned the hearing till 2:30 in the case. The proceedings in the case had resumed after a delay.
‘Not a good example for a judge to change their opinion repeatedly’
The chief justice said that it was not a good example for a judge to change their opinion repeatedly. “There should be uniformity in the judge’s opinion,” he said, “I cannot change my opinion without a solid reason.”
He added that if a clear law comes out, then he would apologise and change his opinion. “The interpretation of Article 63A of the Constitution in the case related to the 21st Amendment was not cited.”
Parliamentary party and party leader
Ali Zafar, Pervaiz Elahi’s lawyer, said that Justice Jawad S Khawaja declared Article 63A of the Constitution “unconstitutional” in a case pertaining to the 21st Constitutional amendment
“He was of the view that Article 63A prevents members from voting freely,” the lawyer said while quoting Justice Khawaja. Zafar added that the judge did not give reasons for his opinion.
The chief justice inquired, “what does Constitution say about whose instructions to vote?” The lawyer said that the parliamentary party gives direction on votes as per the Constitution.
“Is the parliamentary party is separate from the party?” CJP Bandial asked.
To this, Zafar said that the parliamentary party and party leader were two different things.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the party head acted upon the parliamentary party decisions according to the Constitution.
“The parliamentary party does not make decisions on its own. It is informed about the political party’s decisions under which the parliamentary party makes the decisions,” CJP Bandial said.
Justice Munib Akhtar inquired about the definition of the party head, “is the party leader only the leader of the political party?”
Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that provisions of Article 63 of the Constitution were examined superficially in cases pertaining to the 18th and 21st Constitutional amendments. The issue of party leader with regard to Article 63A has never been looked at in detail in the past, he added.
Priority is to decide on this matter soon: CJP
Irfan Qadir, the lawyer of the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker, at the outset of the hearing said that his client has asked him to not appear in court.
PPP lawyer Farooq H Naek also spoke in the same tone.
“Sit in the courtroom,” CJP Bandial told the lawyers. “Not even a single point was mentioned on making a full court.”
The chief judge observed that the parliamentary party has to make the decision as per law, adding that the party head could send a reference on a defection.
“A full court cannot be made for this question,” the CJP remarked and told lawyers that in their view the formation of a full court was a delaying tactic.
CJP Bandial told lawyers of the political parties that it was among the priorities of the bench to decide this matter soon.
In 1988, the caretaker cabinet headed by the then president was invalidated by the Supreme Court, he said, adding that the court had maintained that the cabinet could not run without the PM.
He reiterated that the full court bench for not more than a “delaying tactic”. “Judges are not available before the second week of September.”
“Now we will take about the merits of the case,” he said.
“If I have given a wrong point of view, am I bound to stick to that point or can I correct the mistake?” asked the CJP, “We can either proceed on the merits or I have the option of parting ways.”
The Chief Justice remarked whether the Supreme Court can be bound by the opinion of eight out of 17 judges. A majority of the full court bench did not agree with the direction given by the party chief.
“Those who have decided to boycott the court proceedings have shown so much grace that they are sitting and listening to the proceedings,” he said.
Full court bench request rejected: short order
“The request for full court bench is rejected,” said the SC order on the PA deputy speaker ruling case. “The detailed reasons for not constituting a full court will be issued later.”
A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar is hearing the petition.
The SC in its order added that Punjab CM Hamza Shehbaz, Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari and other lawyers have sought more time in the case. The top court granted the defence lawyers’ request for more time and asked all the lawyers to come prepared for the trial on July 26.