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  • Supreme Court rejects plea seeking formation of full court for hearing Punjab CM's election case

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    Supreme Court File photo Supreme Court

    Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) Monday rejected the petition seeking the formation of a full bench for hearing the case of the Punjab chief minister’s election — where Hamza Shahbaz defeated Pervez Elahi.

    As the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) Monday resumed the hearing for the case of the Punjab chief minister's election, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said that the court needs more legal clarification regarding the formation of a full bench to issue a verdict on the case.

    The CJP also said that he was unsure whether the decision on the said ruling will be made today. Meanwhile, the court also accepted the petition filed by PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and the PPP to become a party in the case.

    During the hearing, Deputy Speaker Mazari's lawyer, Irfan Qadir said he was instructed to speak regarding the formation of the full court only; therefore, he needed time to take instructions from his client.

    Meanwhile, Hamza Shahbaz’s counsellor Mansoor Awan sought time to take instructions for arguments on merit.

    Justice Ijazul Ahsan reiterated that the decision to form a full court will be made on merit. Meanwhile, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarrar asserted that there was enough clarification in this regard.

    Advocate Qadir said he was instructed to speak regarding the full court formation only; therefore, he needs time to take instructions from his client.

    Meanwhile, Hamza Shahbaz’s counsellor Mansoor Awan sought time to take instructions for arguments on merit.

    Justice Ahsan reiterated that the decision to form a full court will be taken on merit; meanwhile, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarrar asserted that there is enough clarification in this regard.

    Tarrar added that if the review petition is approved that there will be no need for a run-off election.

    During the hearing, CJP Bandial said that the case regarding the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was heard by a full court because it was a “constitutional matter”.

    “We have sent the prime minister home with five judges at that time you [coalition parties] were celebrating and now you are standing against this,” the chief justice said, adding that if this matter crosses the limit, then a full court will be formed.

    Presenting his arguments, advocate Qadir added that when allegations are levelled against the judges that similar bench is formed repeatedly then these charges can be rejected by the formation of a full court.

    “There is no objection on the neutrality of the current three-member bench; however, to remove any ambiguities, a full court needs to be formed,” the deputy speaker’s counsellor said.

    CJP Bandial recalled that the SC had taken suo moto notice in the case of the federal government and announced its verdict by hearing the case day and night.

    “In the federal government case, we were of the view that the National Assembly deputy speaker had violated Article 95; however, under the current scenario the court hasn’t taken suo moto notice,” the chief justice said.

    He further added that instead of prolonging the case, it can be shortened, saying there was only one question to be addressed: whether the party head could give directions or not.

    “You have already given the answer to this question in affirmative,” he told advocate Qadir.

    Earlier in the day, the SC had reserved the verdict on the petitions filed by Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz and other bar associations — seeking the formation of a full court for the hearing of the case — 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 elections.

    Last week, the top court asked CM Punjab to retain his position as a "trustee" chief minister till Monday (today), adding that he would have limited powers throughout this period. The court also noted that if Hamza appointed someone against merit during this time, such appointments would 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.

    Today's hearing

    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."

    Qadir, when he came to the rostrum, too said that since there are several confusions over the matter, a full bench should hear the case.