Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti on Wednesday directed Punjab Governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema to administer the oath to CM-elect Hamza Shehbaz himself or appoint a nominee for the constitutional duty by tomorrow.

The directive comes as the LHC announced the verdict on chief minister-elect Hamza Shehbaz’s petition against the delay of his oath-taking, which the court ruled as “unconstitutional”.

Hamza was elected as Punjab’s chief minister on April 16. However, he hasn’t been sworn in yet as his oath-taking was deferred twice despite the LHC’s directives.

The LHC reserved the verdict on Hamza’s plea on Tuesday, which is the second time PML-N has reached out to the high court for the resolution of the matter.

The short order issued by CJ Bhatii stated: “It is, therefore, concluded that all the enabling provisions/Articles of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, suggest the prompt formation of Governments, i.e. Provincial and Federal. For that matter, expeditious administration of oath either by President or by Governor or their nominee, as the case may be, is mandatory; as all expected reasons/options causing delay are excluded/procured by suggesting/providing an alternate mechanism and I do not find any vacuum or space in the Constitution for causing any delay in the administration of oath required under Constitution.

“The province of Punjab is being operated without a functional government, for the last 25 days, since the acceptance of the resignation of the then Chief Minister Usman Buzdar while on the other hand, the oath of the newly elected chief minister, Hamza Shehbaz Sharif is being delayed on one pretext or the other, which is not only against democratic norms but also against the scheme of the Constitution.

“That being the case, it is suggested/advised/proposed that Governor shall ensure the completion of the process of administration of the oath of Chief Minister Punjab, either himself or through his nominee, in terms of Article 255 of the Constitution, on or before 28.04.2022.”

In the ruling, the chief justice maintained that President Arif Alvi, who is also under constitutional obligation to facilitate the expeditious administration of the oath of prime minister or chief minister in any province, is suggested to play his role mandated by the Constitution/law, ensuring a functional provincial government in Punjab.

“The office of this Court is directed to transmit this order through fax immediately to the offices of the Governor and President for its placement before them, today.”

PM SHEHBAZ: Following the verdict, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said: “Worst among [Imran Khan’s] damaging legacy is blatant defiance [and] undermining of constitutional authority.”

“Unfortunate that from president to [deputy]/speaker NA to governor [Punjab], those holding high offices have chosen blind loyalty to their leader [at the] expense of their constitutional responsibilities,” he wrote on Twitter.

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