(L to R) Justice Munib Akhtar, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.

Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) on Monday reserved the verdict on the formation of a full court for hearing the case of the Punjab chief minister’s re-election — where Hamza Shehbaz defeated Pervaiz Elahi.

The SC reserved the verdict on the petitions filed by Hamza and other bar associations — seeking the formation of a full court — after it heard arguments from party lawyers.

However, the CJP gave a break of an hour-and-a-half on the petition of Elahi, which challenged Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari’s ruling in the CM re-elections.

Last week, the top court asked CM Punjab to stay “trustee” chief minister till Monday (today) and limited his powers, noting that if he appoints someone against merit, it will be considered null and void.

A three-member bench — headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar — is holding the hearing at the Supreme Court’s room number 1.

Mazari had dismissed PML-Q’s 10 votes after party head Chaudhry Shujaat asked them to vote in favour of Hamza, but they did not follow his instructions.

But the PTI and Elahi did not accept this and approached the top court.

At the outset of today’s hearing, Advocate Latif Afridi — the former head of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) — came to the rostrum and pleaded to the court on behalf of lawyers’ bodies, saying the system is facing dangers as there are numerous challenges.

“The review petition in the Article 63(A) case should be fixed before a full court,” Afridi said, as he noted that the political crisis in the country was deepening over time.

At this, CJP Bandial said that he was honoured that the former SCBA chief had put the matter before him, but noted that the court would take a decision after hearing all parties in the case.

CJP Bandial said that he did not want to issue a one-sided order and neither would he arrive at a decision under the advice of 10 former presidents.

“We need to hear the other side of the story as well,” he said. At this, Afridi said that a full bench should be constituted and the available judges should be included.

Moving on, PPP lawyer Farooq H Naik said that he has requested to become a party in the case, at which the CJP told him that let the initial matters be wrapped up first.

“We will hear you, but let the proceedings move in line with the order. Please sit, I hope that your seat will be vacant,” the CJP told Naik.

In response, Naik told him that “seats come and go”.

During the proceedings, SCBA President Ahsan Bhoon said that he could not “imagine” pressurising the court, but noted that the review petition on Article 63A should be heard.

“What’s the hurry Bhoon sahab, let us hear this case first,” CJP said.

Barrister Ali Zafar — who is representing Elahi in the case — said that he has also remained the president of the bar. “The bar presidents should not be involved in such matters.”

Deputy Speaker Mazari’s lawyer, Irfan Qadir, too, when he came to the rostrum, said that since there are several confusions over the matter, a full bench should hear the case.

Then, Mazari’s counsel read out the court’s order issued on July 23. At this, the CJP asked the lawyer how the deputy speaker arrived at the conclusion that the court’s order on Article 63 (A) gives the impression that it speaks about the party head.

“This question is for you [and] that is why a special bench has been formed. The question here is what happens when the party head and the parliamentary party’s decisions differ?”

Qadir said that it was not his job to define what questions arise here, but it was the court’s task. At this, the CJP asked him to read out Article 63 (A).

The CJP then said that the article mentions the party head and the parliamentary party.

“I am extremely confused as to what the question is here? I cannot understand what’s the question?” he asked.

The CJP then said that maybe the lawyer was having trouble hearing the judges and warned him that he would be asked to sit at his seat if he cuts off any judge while they are speaking.

Justice Ahsan asked if the same person can issue declarations and instruct a parliamentary party at the same time. At this, Qadir said that the political parties’ rights have been mentioned in the constitution.

Justice Akhtar then said that the deputy speaker issued the directions — during the Punjab CM election on July 22 — under the SC’s ruling in the Article 63(A) case.

“There is no confusion in this case anymore, let someone else speak now,” Justice Akhtar added.

‘Parliamentary party has the right to issue directions’

Justice Ahsan then started speaking with Hamza’s lawyer, Mansoor Usman Awan, and asked him specifically which paragraph did the deputy speaker refer to while issuing the directives.

The lawyer told him that the only point here is that any vote cast against the party policy should be dismissed.

Justice Ahsan asked whether the party head could be the leader of the parliamentary party.

At this, Awan said that in previous orders of the apex court, it is mentioned that the party head can give directions to the party.

He said that Justice Azmat Saeed’s order has mentioned that the party head takes all the decisions.

But Justice Akhtar said that there are two different policies while voting on the directions of the party policy.

He added that previously, there was confusion over the party head’s functions, but after amendments in Article 63 (A), the “parliamentary party has the right to issue directions”.

The lawyer then told the court that the deputy speaker gave his ruling based on paragraph three of the SC’s order on Article 63 (A).

Shujaat’s letter received ‘much before’ session

Upon the court’s query about Chaudhry Shujaat’s letter to his party MPs, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarrar said that the directions were given to members “much before” the assembly session.

During the arguments, the court stopped Hamza’s counsel Awan from taking directions from the federal minister.

“You are the chief minister’s lawyer, how can you take guidance from the law minister?” Justice Munib asked.

Continuing his arguments, Awan said that PTI Chairman Imran Khan gave directions to his MPs and the Election Commission de-seated the dissents lawmakers on the basis of these instructions.

He also presented Khan’s letter before the bench.

‘My party, my letter’

In his arguments before the SC bench, Chaudhry Shujaat’s counsel Salahuddin confirmed that he [Shujaat] wrote a letter to his party lawmakers.

“The party is mine and the letter is also mine,” Salahuddin quoted Shujaat as saying.

The CJP asked the lawyer to limit his arguments to the formation of a full bench as the PML-Q president has not been made a party in the case.

“I want a full court to be formed,” Salahuddin said.

‘No objection’

Speaking to journalists outside the courtroom, PTI leader Fawad Chauhdry said the party has no objection to the demand for the formation of a full bench.

“If [the] chief justice himself decides to form a full bench then he can,” Fawad said, adding that it would not be acceptable if formed on the coalition partners’ demand.

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