SC concerned with constitutionality, not policy matters: CJP



ISLAMABAD:

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said on Tuesday that the Supreme Court (SC) 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.

As a constitutional crisis gripped the country following the speaker’s ruling, the apex court had taken a suo motu notice to resolve the matter on the insistence of the opposition parties that had also petitioned the court for the same.

At the previous hearing, opposition lawyer Farooq H Naik had presented arguments for two hours. The apex court had also rejected the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) request for the formation of a full bench to hear the case.

During the hearing today, 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.

Read SC bars institutions from ‘extra-constitutional’ steps

The court adjourned for a prayer break after Makhdoom Khan completed his arguments.

After the break, lawyers representing PPP’s Nayyar 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 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. 

AGP 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 tomorrow.

The court adjourned the hearing till 11 pm on Wednesday as the “hearing could not be completed today”.

‘Assembly cannot be dissolved’

As the hearing resumed today, PPP Senator Raza Rabbani presented arguments before the five-member bench.

Rabbani informed the bench that the process to remove the prime minister was enshrined in the Constitution. “Once a motion for the no-confidence [against PM] is tabled in the house, he cannot dissolve assemblies,” Rabbani said, adding that only the resignation of the PM can stop the no-confidence motion.

The PPP leader said the president could also ask the prime minister to take the vote of confidence from the house. He added that in order for the no-confidence motion to be dismissed, either the premier has to resign or the opposition takes back the resolution. However, once the resolution is tabled, it has to be voted upon.

Rabbani said the court could review the ruling of the speaker under Article 95(2) of the Constitution. He added that the deputy speaker interpreted Article 5 and applied it to the members of the opposition.

He urged the court to declare the ruling of the deputy speaker unconstitutional, asking whether a speaker could issue such a ruling without the court’s findings.

Rabbani said the establishment also rejected the claim made by PM Imran about “three options given to him by the establishment”.

Rabbani also asked the court to summon the ‘threat letter’ and the National Security Committee’s minutes. “The court should strike down the speaker’s ruling and restore the National Assembly,” he added.





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