SC to only determine legality of NA deputy speaker’s ruling: CJP

ISLAMABAD, Apr 05 (APP):Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Tuesday said the apex court would only determine the legality of National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling on a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The court did not want to investigate the policy matters as it only aimed to ascertain the constitutionality of the deputy speaker’s ruling , he added.

The CJP was heading the five-member larger SC bench, which heard the suo moto notice case on the current situation in the country following the dismissal of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan by the NA deputy speaker and the subsequent dissolution of the NA by President Arif Alvi.

The bench comprised Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.

During the course of proceedings, Advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan, counsel for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz proposed that the apex court could seek an in-camera briefing about the foreign conspiracy from the intelligence agency chief.

Upon this, the chief justice said the court was focusing only on the deputy speaker’s ruling and it was its priority to decide on that particular issue. It wanted to see whether it could review the ruling.

The court did not interfere in the state matters and foreign affairs, he added, and advised all parties to focus only on that point.

Justice Ijaz said the court at present was concerned with the constitutional matters only. The chief justice said the bench was looking at the law and Constitution.

The PML-N’s counsel said the court could judicially review an illegal and unconstitutional move.

Justice Munib Akhtar said the NA and provincial assembly speakers were masters of their respective houses. The distribution of powers was also enshrined in the Constitution, he added.

Makhdoom Ali Khan said the no-confidence motion was submitted to the NA with the signatures of 152 members of National Assembly, while (on March 28) 161 had voted in favour of tabling it. After that, the NA proceedings were adjourned till March 31, he added.

He said 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.

Justice Munib Akhtar said the process of the no-confidence motion was underlined in the Rules of Procedure, not in the Constitution.

The counsel argued that the rules were formed on the basis of the Constitution. The no-confidence motion could not be dismissed by the speaker once it was tabled in the National Assembly.

The chief justice asked whether a debate was held on the no-confidence motion.

Justice Mandokhail said the real question was whether the deputy speaker’s ruling was legal or illegal. The real issue was to examine the constitutional status of the ruling.

He asked whether illegal factors in the no-confidence motion could be investigated.
The counsel replied that the apex court had the right to do so.

Justice Munib Akhtar asked how could the court give an opinion on the constitutional rights of the speaker over minor flaws.

He asked the counsel whether he wanted to open a new door for litigations. If it happened, applications against provincial assemblies would start pouring in the high courts, he added.

Justice Mandokhel asked if the deputy speaker could use powers without taking permission from the speaker.

Advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan replied that it was unconstitutional for the deputy speaker to exercise his powers without the permission of the speaker. The deputy speaker, while reading aloud the ruling, had taken the name of the speaker too, he added.

He alleged that the deputy speaker’s ruling fell under the definition of a mala fide decision.

Advocate Raza Rabbani said the court had to examine the extent of the immunity of parliamentary proceedings. According to Article 95 of the Constitution, the no-confidence motion could not be dismissed without voting on it.

He said the NA session held on March 21 was adjourned after offering prayers for a deceased lawmaker and this had not happened in the past. The assemblies could not be dissolved during the no-confidence process.

He urged that the minutes of the National Security Committee and the threat letter should also be presented.

The lawyers representing the Pakistan Peoples Party (Nayyar Bukhari) and the Awami National Party presented their arguments wherein they endorsed the arguments made by Makhdoom Ali Khan.

The petitioners completed their arguments in the case whereas PTI’s lawyer Babar Awan said he would argue before the court on Wednesday. Barrister Ali Zafar would represent President Arif Alvi in the case. Imtiaz Qureshi said he would represent PM Imran Khan.

Attorney General for Pakistan 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 the national security.

Justice Ijaz said though the time was running out, the court could not decide the case in haste.

Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing till Wednesday.