SC restores National Assembly, orders no-confidence vote tomorrow

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All five judges unanimously declare NA deputy speaker’s ruling unconstitutional; President ordered to convene NA session on Saturday; President’s decision to dissolve NA termed ‘illegal’; Restores PM Imran as well as his cabinet; Nullifies all decisions made till date

In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the National Assembly deputy speaker’s ruling to dismiss the no-confidence motion and subsequent dissolution of the lower house by the president on the PM’s advice were contrary to the law and Constitution.

The Supreme Court ordered National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to reconvene the session of the National Assembly on Saturday at 10:30am, saying that the session cannot be adjourned without the conclusion of the no-trust motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The apex court’s five-member larger bench, headed by Justice Bandial and comprising Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Aijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, heard the case. The chief justice had noted that the deputy speaker’s ruling is, prima facie, a violation of Article 95, as the apex court resumed deliberation over the “unconstitutional” act by Suri for the fifth consecutive day Thursday.

“…the prime minister did not have the right to advise the president to dissolve the assembly all the decisions made till date have been nullified,” the top court’s ruling said.

“…if the no-confidence motion against the prime minister succeeds, then the assembly will appoint the new prime minister,” the top court’s order said.

The court ruled that no member will be barred from casting his vote on Saturday, adding that if the no-trust motion fails, the government will continue to carry out its affairs per usual.

The apex court ruled that President Dr Arif Alvi’s decision to dissolve the National Assembly was “illegal” and restored Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as his cabinet.

“The deputy speaker gave a ruling on April 3. Leave was granted on the no-confidence motion on March 28. The ruling of the speaker is declared unconstitutional,” Justice Bandial declared.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial had earlier said that the court will move forward only after seeing national interest and practical possibilities.

The chief justice said the verdict was announced with a unanimous agreement of 5-0 after the judges consulted each other. “The current issues are done away with,” he said.

The verdict said that the government could not interfere in the participation of any MNA in the assembly session. The court further stated that the current order would not impact the proceedings under Article 63 of the Constitution. The apex court said in the verdict that the government cannot bar any lawmaker from attending the NA session. The top court had also summoned the Election Commission of Pakistan officials including its secretary.

Earlier, during a hearing of the case, CJP Bandial, after consultation with fellow judges, observed that it was clear that the ruling of the deputy speaker to dismiss the no-confidence motion submitted against the prime minister was “wrong”.

The chief justice remarked that there would be no stability in the country even after the restoration of the National Assembly that had been dissolved as a result of the ruling.

The court retired for a 15 minutes break. The CJP said after the break the court will touch upon salient features of the Constitution which include democracy and the parliamentary form of system. Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan argued that everyone needed to be loyal to the state. He said that he is not defending the ruling. “However, I think new elections are the only solution,” he added.

PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif was also called to the rostrum by the top court. Shehbaz said the Constitution was trampled multiple times in the history of Pakistan and the absence of penalization emboldened others and things reached the present stage.

He urged the SC to restore parliament and let it hold the vote of no-confidence. He also urged political parties to come together and sign a charter of the economy.

Justice Mandokhel said the opposition wanted fresh elections from day one. “It’s not about elections, but the abrogation of the Constitution,” Shehbaz responded. “We will consult the opposition on electoral reforms for transparent elections,” the PML-N chief said, adding that measures will be taken to provide relief to the masses.

The CJ said the court will decide the case on merit, not allegations. “Who hurled allegations of treason must need to prove them,” he added.

CJ Bandial also listened to PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in the court. Bilawal said the opposition wanted to bring electoral reforms before the next elections. “Whatever your suggestions for reforms in the Senate are…bring them to the court,” CJ Bandial told Bilawal.

At the outset of the hearing, Imran Khan’s counsel Imtiaz Siddiqui argued that the scrutiny of parliamentary proceedings was beyond the mandate of the judiciary. “The court should ask parliament to clean up its mess,” he added.

Chief Justice Bandial said the premier left the country in a lurch by announcing snap elections in 90 days and added that, according to the petitioners, the speaker could not have ruled before March 28 before leave was granted for the no-trust motion to be moved.

“What will you say on this,” Justice Bandial asked. The PM’s counsel added that the opposition did not object to the deputy speaker chairing the session. “The deputy speaker [Qasim Suri] used his mind to come on a decision he considered better,” the lawyer said, adding that the speaker was not answerable to the court.

Chief Justice Bandial said the court will review to what extent the proceedings were protected under Article 69.

The lawyer said if the speaker had knowledge of a foreign-backed regime-change plot or a threat to national security then he could circumvent the law to “save the country”. The speaker made a “perfect decision in accordance with his oath”, he said, asserting that it was an “internal parliamentary matter”. “If you read Article 69 with Article 127 then you will see that parliamentary proceedings are completely protected,” the lawyer said, adding that the top court could not interfere in parliament.

Justice Munib Akhtar said the court was not bound to follow the decision that was referred to by the counsel. The lawyer said, “With due respect, you [five-member bench] are bound to follow the decisions of a seven-member bench.” The verdicts that were being alluded to only had observations and the court was not bound to follow “observations in verdicts,” Justice Munib added.

 

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