CJP Bandial says SC wants to protect everybody’s voting rights | SC advises political parties to resolve matters with consensus
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said Monday the assembly’s “wars” should be fought in the assembly as the Supreme Court heard a case related to public gatherings of the Opposition and the government in the federal capital — ahead of the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.
A two-member bench, headed by CJP Bandial, and comprising Justice Muneeb Akhtar, heard the Supreme Court Bar Association’s (SCBA) plea seeking the apex court’s intervention to prevent “anarchy”.
Three bigwigs of the Opposition — PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman — along with other opposition leaders were present during the hearing.
At the outset of the hearing, the lawyer representing SCBA said that the NA Speaker has summoned the assembly session on March 25 while it has to be convened within 14 days of the submission of the no-trust motion under Article 95.
“The court is not convinced on interfering in the NA’s affairs. It only wants that no one’s right to vote is affected,” CJP Bandial remarked during the hearing.
Listening to the arguments by the SCBA counsel regarding the delay in the voting on the no-confidence motion, which was filed on March 8, the CJP said that “these are the internal matters of the assembly,” adding that it would be better to fight these battles inside the assembly.
The petitioner’s lawyer highlighted that under Article 95, the speaker of the National Assembly has to summon a session within 14 days from the time when the no-confidence motion is filed.
Regarding the voting on the no-confidence motion, CJP Bandial said that the SCBA wants the lawmakers to have the choice to vote for whomever they want.
However, he said, the question is whether the personal choice of an MNA can differ from the party policy.
The SCBA’s lawyer argued that all the MNAs should have the right to vote freely. At this, Justice Muneeb Akhtar inquired about the article under which lawmakers can vote freely.
Responding to the query, the SCBA’s lawyer said that the MNAs elect the speaker and other officials of the assembly under Article 91.
“If someone is casting his/her vote how can someone say that it is not their right to vote,” Justice Akhtar said, asking the SCBA on which article the body has based its case.
“All of this is the assembly’s internal matter and it will be better that it is settled in the assembly. We do not want to go into details of this matter,” the CJP said as the SCBA sought to stop the gatherings.
CJP Bandial, asking the political parties what did they want the court to do in this matter, noted that the judiciary could only play a mediator’s role in political matters for the betterment of democracy.
The court stated that party workers cannot be brought to the capital to stop lawmakers from casting their vote during the session on the no-confidence motion.
“Sit together and form a consensus […] choose a place other than D-Chowk,” the CJP advised the political parties.
‘Ashamed on Sindh House incident’
the Sindh House incident, the IG Islamabad Police told the court that the JUI-F workers also tried to go towards the Sindh House, however, they were stopped near Balochistan House.
“We are ashamed over the incident,” he added.
Talking about the incident, Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan said that orders have been issued to the police and concerned authorities to investigate the matter.
The CJP reiterated that the real issue is stopping the MNAs from voting, saying that the case was heard on Saturday to urge everybody to act according to the Constitution.
Meanwhile, the AGP added that the public will not be allowed to enter the Red Zone area during the assembly session.
“We have full confidence in you,” the CJP said to AGP.
The attorney general urged the government and the Opposition to express their disagreements politely.
Meanwhile, CJP Bandial said that a larger bench will be formed on the presidential reference, and ordered a hearing on it from March 24.
He further said that all parties should submit their responses in writing regarding the reference.
relevant laws for voting, Justice Munib Akhtar said that Article 17 is regarding the formation of political parties. He said that under Article 17, the rights belong to political parties while according to Article 95, the right to vote belongs to political parties.
He further added under Article 95(2) individual votes have no legal status, highlighting that votes are considered collective right after inclusion in a political party.
‘NA session in accordance with law’
After the hearing today, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said the war waged against corrupt elements will be taken to the logical conclusion.
Talking to the media persons along with Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar and Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, he said the Supreme Court’s opinion on Article 63-A has been sought by the government.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan is standing firm.
“The party also afforded an opportunity to the dissident members to return.”
The minister said that the media cell of PML-N is involved in a propaganda campaign against the army to create a wedge between the government and the military.
Babar Awan in his remarks said that the speaker has summoned the session of the National Assembly on 25th March in accordance with the constitution. He reminded that the lower house had unanimously passed a motion, providing the assembly hall for the session of the OIC.
Won’t make any political statements: Bilawal
Earlier, while speaking to the media before the hearing, Bilawal said that he wouldn’t make a political statement in the apex court’s premises.
“Instead, we will wage a political struggle,” the PPP chairman said.
He said that the political parties did not file a legal petition against the NA speaker in court.
“We haven’t dragged the Parliament to the court’s doorstep. SCBA filed a petition and nominated us as parties.”
Bilawal further stated that all their hopes are attached to the court because political decisions are taken under the Constitution and laws.
“We will pursue our Constitutional and legal struggle through lawyers,” he added.
Fazl terms govt ‘illegitimate’
In his address to the media, Fazl said that it is the first time that he is appearing before the SC.
“This government is illegitimate. Do you want to create sympathy for such an incompetent government,” he said.