We don’t want to interfere in foreign affairs. Supreme Court Can the speaker announce such a ruling without presenting the facts: CJP Umar Ata Bandial

ISLAMABAD ( Web News )

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday asked the lawyer for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaf (PTI) government, Dr. Zaheeruddin Babar Awan, about the minutes of the recent meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) which had discussed a letter purportedly showing evidence of a foreign conspiracy to oust the PTI-led government of Imran Khan.

The CJP made the inquiry as a five-member bench, comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, took up a suo motu case on the events of April 3 when National Assembly (NA) Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri dismissed the no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Dr. Arif Alvi dissolved the NA on the premier’s advice.

During the hearing, Justice Bandial questioned the basis on which the speaker issued the ruling. He observed that, so far, the ruling consisted of accusations not findings. “Can the speaker announce such a ruling without presenting the facts,” he asked, adding that this was the constitutional point on which the court had to make a decision.

He also asked Awan to inform the court whether the speaker could issue a ruling that was not on the day’s agenda by bypassing Article 95. He told the PTI counsel to defend the ruling with “solid” evidence.

“Where are the minutes of the NSC meeting?” he asked Awan, also asking the PTI counsel about the basis on Suri exercised his authority.

After Awan, President Dr. Arif Alvi’s counsel, Senator Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, began his arguments, insisting that any direction from the court on the matter of the deputy speaker’s ruling would exceed its jurisdiction.

Zafar pointed out that the case under discussion concerned the interpretation of Articles 95 and 69. “There are six rules for interpreting the provisions of the Constitution. It should be understood in accordance with its true spirit rather than just words.”

He said just like judicial proceedings could not be debated in the parliament, courts, too, could not interfere in the proceedings of the parliament. “Unfortunately, the petitioners want the case to be heard as an appeal against the ruling of the deputy speaker,” he said, adding that the case was in fact an interference in the prerogatives of the NA.

Zafar explained that even if 10 MNAs were not allowed to vote and were expelled from the house, such a move could not be challenged by anyone.

Here, the CJP said: “But they [opposition] are saying that a new speaker should come and voting should be held again.”

“To approach the court against the ruling of the deputy speaker is interference in the parliament,” Zafar said, adding that giving instructions to the speaker was equivalent to giving instructions to the parliament, which was unconstitutional.

To this, CJP Bandial asked if interference was not possible even if the Constitution was violated.

“I will give my arguments on what is constitutional and what isn’t later,” Zafar replied.

The lawyer recalled that Justice Maqbool Baqir, on his retirement, spoke of balance in institutions. “Only mutual respect can create balance in institutions.” He went on to say that if the house was not satisfied with the speaker, it could opt for a no-trust motion.

“But if the speaker’s ruling is reviewed, every decision taken by him would be brought to court,” Zafar argued, reiterating that the court had no power to review the speaker’s ruling.

At this point, Justice Ahsan asked if the court could review the prime minister’s advice to dissolve the NA.

Taking the rostrum during Wednesday’s hearing, PTI’s counsel Babar Awan asked whether the issue of horse trading was brought up by anyone. “The court was informed that the deputy speaker’s ruling is malicious and unconstitutional but what occurred at Sindh House and Lahore’s Avari Hotel, could it be ignored?”

He was referring to the stay of PTI dissidents staying there amidst allegations of horse-trading. “No one said a word about Article 63-A,” Awan said.

He said that the opposition was claiming to “save parliamentary democracy” while PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif had demanded the formation of a judicial commission to probe the matter.

He claimed that the opposition wanted the court to issue a short order in its favour immediately, adding that they wanted to set aside the mention of the National Security Committee in the deputy speaker’s ruling.

At one point, the CJP asked whether the speaker had the power to issue a ruling by deviating from the order of the day. He also questioned whether it was possible to set aside a constitutional process.

“Can the speaker keep constitutional requirements aside,” Justice Bandial inquired, adding that the court would not take rumours and allegations into account. He also told Awan to refrain from giving long-winded speeches, directing him to inform the court about the basis on which the speaker gave the ruling.

Continuing, Awan said that a meeting took place between Pakistani officials and a diplomat from another country, the “cipher” of which arrived on March 7. The head of mission and the defence attache were also present, he said.

The court inquired when the meeting had taken place, noting that the PTI counsel was not aware of the date. “The ruling is based on accusations not facts,” the CJP observed. He repeated Awan’s words and said that the cipher came and was decoded by the Foreign Office, asking him to continue.

However, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Barrister Khalid Jawed Khan interjected and said that such facts should come from the government and not a political party as they concerned foreign affairs.

“We don’t want to interfere in foreign affairs,” the CJP said as the AGP told the PTI lawyer to read from the ruling.

Awan said that four things were underlined in the letter, adding that more details could not be given due to the Official Secrets Act.

After seeing the letter, the FO met with the prime minister and the foreign minister, he said. “In the cabinet meeting, the DG concerned gave a briefing on the letter,” Awan said, asking whether an in-camera hearing was possible.

“I want to keep the FO’s briefing in front of the court,” he said. However, the CJP replied that the court was currently not asking for the letter, subsequently rejecting Awan’s request.

The PTI lawyer went on to say that Pakistan issued a demarche to the country who allegedly sent the threat. He also noted that Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Babar Iftikhar, in a recent interview, had said that the army’s stance was the same as the NSC.

At one point, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail remarked that under the Constitution loyalty to the state was compulsory. “But the question is what should be done with MNAs who are not loyal with the state,” he observed.

Awan said that he belonged to a political party where 22 lawmakers had been “bought”. “Forty lawmakers from Punjab were holed up in a hotel,” he said, requesting the court to also hear the case of party dissidents with this case. “Parliament teaches people honesty but this is what has happened in parliament,” he said.

Justice Mandokhail observed that political parties should think for themselves in order to prevent floor crossing. “Why don’t political parties self-anaylse? The same faces are sometimes seen at one place and then at another,” he said.

He added that the judges had taken an oath to protect the Constitution. “We will take a decision that is in favour of the nation,” he added, at which point Awan concluded his arguments.

Justice Akhtar observed that if the court reviewed every ruling of the parliament “there would be a disaster”.


“According to the petitioners, Article 95 has been violated,” CJP Bandial said. “And they want the parliamentary proceedings to be reviewed.” The CJP said that the court fully respected the constitutional division of powers.


Zafar pointed out that when the elections of the Senate chairman was challenged in the Islamabad High Court, it had ruled that the constitutional elections in parliament were protected [from judicial intervention] as well.


He said the court could only review the speaker’s ruling on the no-confidence motion if it decided to not consider it a parliamentary proceeding.


“What if the votes are not enough but the speaker announces that the no-confidence motion has succeeded?” Justice Mandokhail asked. “What will happen then?


“These may be parliamentary issues but the court cannot monitor the parliament.” The lawyer contended that the parliament should be given a chance to solve its issues itself.


The CJP observed that Zafar’s argument that the speaker’s ruling was protected even if it was wrong was interesting.


“After the ruling, the NA was dissolved and fresh elections were announced,” the CJP noted, adding that “it was decided to go to the public.”


The CJP said that the lawyers of PML-N would be asked what the issue was in going to the public. Justice Ahsan then asked how someone’s rights were affected by going into elections.


At this point, the CJP reiterated that the case concerned the violation of Article 95 of the Constitution.


“The SC can intervene wherever the Constitution is breached,” Justice Bandial said, but added that “we respect the sanctity of parliament.”


Meanwhile, Justice Ahsan asked whether violating the Constitution too had protection under Article 69.


Justice Mandokhail said that the Constitution had given a procedure for the no-confidence motion and how to deal with deviant members.


When Justice Akhtar asked if the PM could be removed even if there was no majority in the parliament, Zafar replied that things could be perceived in several ways.


“According to your argument, the majority of the entire parliament is on one side and the power of the speaker is on the other side,” Justice Ahsan said in response.


Meanwhile, the CJP said that first of all, the court would look at Pakistan’s judicial precedents.


“If there is ambiguity, then we will look at international precedents.”


During Wednesday’s hearing, the government’s lawyers presented their arguments in the case.


The courtroom was packed at the start of the hearing with politicians from both the government and the opposition in attendance.


At the outset of the hearing, the lawyer for the PML-N, Senator Chaudhry Azam Nazir Tarar, noted that the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker had summoned a session for today to elect the province’s new chief minister.


He also pointed out that the assembly staff were not following the directives issued by the deputy speaker and expressed concerns regarding the election for the province’s chief minister.


“We are hearing a very important case,” the chief justice said, adding that the court would try to wrap up the case today. He also said that the court was coming under fire for not deciding the matter.


He told political parties to solve the issue concerning the Punjab Assembly on a political basis, asking how the apex court could make a unilateral decision.


The Supreme Court adjourned the hearing on the “unconstitutional” ruling by National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri to impede the vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan for the fourth consecutive day.


The SC wants to wrap up the case today, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said, as the apex court resumed hearing the case on Wednesday.


The court has adjourned the further hearing of the matter till 9:30 AM today (Thursday).