Islamabad (Web Desk): The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday adjourns the hearing on the suo motu notice taken by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on the legality of the current situation in the country following the dismissal of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan by National Assembly (NA) Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri and the subsequent dissolution of the NA by President Arif Alvi on the prime minister's advice.
A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, and including Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail is hearing the case.
At the outset of the hearing, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) counsel Senator Raza Rabbani presented his arguments before the court.
"This is a civilian coup. A stance was created through an alleged cable which is based on malafide intent," Rabbani said, adding that the no-confidence motion against the prime minister was tabled on March 28 but the NA session was adjourned.
The senator said that Fawad Chaudhry, speaking on a point of order during Sunday's session, had talked about the letter and the foreign conspiracy even though it was not on the day's agenda.
He also maintained that it was wrong of Suri to term opposition lawmakers as traitors without providing any evidence. A no-confidence motion was also submitted against Asad Qaiser which limits the power of the speaker, he said, adding that assemblies could not be dissolved during the no-confidence process.
He urged the court to dismiss the deputy speaker's ruling and to restore the National Assembly, adding that the minutes of the National Security Committee and the 'threat letter' should also be presented.
After Rabbani, Pakistan Muslim-League-Nawaz's (PML-N) counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan presented his arguments. He began by stating that the no-confidence motion was submitted to the NA with the signatures of 152 lawmakers while 161 had voted in favour of tabling it. "After that, proceedings were adjourned till March 31."
As per the rules, the counsel pointed out, a debate on the no-trust move was supposed to be conducted on March 31. "But a debate was not held," he said, adding that voting was also not conducted on April 3.
He noted that according to the no-confidence motion, the prime minister had lost the confidence of the majority of the National Assembly. "Shehbaz Sharif had submitted the motion as per the rules of business," he said, adding that the NA session was adjourned till April 3 without conducting any proceedings, he said.
The PML-N's counsel also said that the deputy speaker did not give the opposition a chance to speak during the session held on April 3 and gave the floor to the former information minister.
At that, Justice Akhtar said that the process of the no-confidence motion was underlined in the rules of procedure, not the Constitution. However, Khan argued that rules were formed on the basis of the Constitution.
Continuing his argument, the PML-N lawyer said that the no-confidence motion can't be dismissed by the speaker once it is tabled in the NA.
At one point, the CJP asked whether a debate was held on the no-confidence move, to which the PML-N lawyer replied that it was not.
Justice Bandial also asked whether a majority of lawmakers were present in Parliament when the no-confidence resolution against the prime minister was tabled, noting that it required the support of 20pc of the lawmakers. He observed that constitutional provisions cannot be trampled through rules.
Justice Mandokhail added that the real question was whether the deputy speaker's ruling was legal or illegal. "The real issue is to examine the constitutional status of the ruling," he said.
He also questioned whether "illegal factors" in the no-confidence motion could be investigated, to which the PML-N lawyer replied that the apex court had the right to do so.
Here, Justice Akhtar remarked, "How can we give an opinion on the Constitutional rights of the speaker over minor flaws."
"Do you want to open a new door of litigations? If this happens, application against provincial assemblies will start coming to high courts."
Meanwhile, Justice Mandokhel asked if the deputy speaker could use powers without taking permission from the speaker. "Is deputy speaker using the powers of speaker Constitutional or not?
The PML-N counsel replied that it was unconstitutional for the deputy speaker to exercise his powers without the permission of the speaker. "The deputy speaker, while reading aloud the ruling, had taken the name of the speaker too," he added.
On Sunday, the SC had taken suo motu notice regarding current political situation which emerged after President Dr Arif Alvi’s decision to dissolve National Assembly.
On Monday, the apex court heard the arguments by PPP's counsel Farooq H Naek who contended that Suri's ruling in Sunday's session was meant to deliberately avoid the voting process in the Assembly.
During the hearing, CJP Bandial directed Naek to argue how the deputy speaker's ruling is illegitimate.
The CJP asked how the speaker could give a ruling on whether the motion was legal or illegal.
"Does the speaker have no authority to reject the no-confidence motion?" he asked.
"Even if the speaker cites Article 5 of the Constitution, the no-confidence motion cannot be rejected," the CJP said.
The CJP then asked to what extent does the speaker have constitutional protection under Article 69? "We want to make a decision sooner than you," he said.
Naek requested the court to wrap up the case and reserve the verdict.
However, the CJP remarked that the court has to hear other respondents as well. After this, the court adjourned the hearing till Tuesday (today).
The deputy speaker dismissed the no-trust move against Prime Minister Imran Khan, terming it a contradiction of Article 5 of the Constitution.
Later, on the advise of Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Alvi dissolve assemblies.
In an address to the nation, soon after NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri dismissed no-trust move against the premier, PM Imran said that he had advised President Alvi to dissolve assemblies.
A joint petition, filed by the PPP, PML-N and JUI-F through Farooq H. Naek, Azam Nazir Tarar and Kamran Murtaza, has also requested the apex court to declare the ruling of the deputy speaker, as well as the advice of the prime minister to the president to dissolve the National Assembly and the subsequent dissolution of the assembly as illegal and unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has also filed a petition in the Supreme Court on the constitutional crisis.
The constitutional petition filed by SCBA states that a voting of no-confidence motion was a must, and the speaker cannot cancel the voting by a ruling.
It was further noted that the deputy speaker’s ruling contradicts Article 95(2). It further said that according to Article 58(1) the premier cannot even “advise dissolution of the assembly,” once the no-confidence motion is filed against him/her.