Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Monday decided against ruling on the coalition government’s request to form a full court bench on petitions related to the recently held Punjab chief minister’s re-election — included a review of its interpretation of Article 63-A — saying that the court will have to hear more arguments before it takes a decision in this regard.
Chief Justice Bandial made the remarks during the hearing of a petition filed by PML-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi challenging Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari’s decision in the chief minister’s re-election last week, which led to Hamza Shehbaz’s victory.
During the re-election, Mazari had decided against counting the votes of 10 PML-Q lawmakers, which were cast in Elahi’s favour, citing a letter written by PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain in which he had instructed them to vote for Hamza instead.
A three-member bench, comprising Justices Bandial, Ijazul Ahsan and Munib Akhtar are hearing the petition. During the previous hearing on Saturday, they had allowed Hamza — who was re-elected on July 22 — to remain “trustee” chief minister till Monday (today).
Earlier in the hearing, the chief justice had remarked that the party head “will also have to listen to the parliamentary party’s opinion”.
Here are the main developments of the hearing so far:
CJP Bandial remarks party head will have to listen to the parliamentary party’s opinion.
Justice Ahsan says parliamentary party decides who to vote for in the assembly.
Justice Ahsan observes deputy speaker exceeded court’s interpretation in his ruling.
Court says facts in re-election case different from case on dissident MPAs.
PTI lawyer contends judicial interpretation of Article 63-A was clear and unambiguous.
“Trustee” Punjab CM Hamza Shehbaz requests court to constitute a full bench to hear Elahi’s petition, clubbed with the review of SC’s interpretation of Article 63-A.
PPP, PML-Q, and JUI-F file petitions to become parties in the case.
There was a flurry of activity even before today’s hearing began as the coalition government reiterated its demand for the formation of a full court bench to hear cases related to hear the case related to the Punjab chief minister’s election.
At the same time, an Islamabad police official said only leaders of respondent parties would be allowed to enter the court premises with the permission of the SC administration.
He added that lists of leaders had been provided by political parties in this regard. “No rally, procession or gathering will be allowed in the Red Zone, including around the Supreme Court.”
After hearing arguments on the constitution of a full bench from the counsels of the deputy speaker, Hamza, PML-Q and PTI, the court adjourned the hearing for 1.5 hours so the judges could deliberate on the matter.
SCBA: At the outset of the hearing, the bench called former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Latif Afridi to the rostrum.
The chief justice observed that several former SCBA presidents were present in the courtroom. The ongoing case was directly related to the SC’s interpretation of Article 63-A, he remarked.
Afridi said the country’s current political situation was “very complicated”.
“Our former presidents held a meeting. The SCBA’s petition for review [of the Article 63-A interpretation] is pending adjudication,” he informed the court.
Meanwhile, Afridi pointed out that cases challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to de-seat lawmakers over defection were also being heard.
A full-court bench should be formed to avoid a constitutional crisis, he requested the court. “The crises are deepening. The entire system is at stake.”
He requested the SC to form a full-court bench to hear all the cases together.
The deputy speaker’s lawyer, Irfan Qadir, also requested the court to constitute a full bench. At this, the CJP asked him the grounds on which a full court bench should be constituted.
Qadir requested the bench to read paragraphs one and two of its decision on the presidential reference seeking interpretation of Article 63-A, stating that everything would then be clarified.
“We aren’t here to fight,” he added.