March 21st, 2022
Members of the National Assembly would face no hindrance in attending the no-confidence session requisitioned by the opposition parties, the Attorney General assured the Supreme Court on Monday.
The government assurance was made during the hearing of the petition by the Supreme Court Bar Association which seeks the apex court’s intervention to prevent any anarchic situation ahead of the no-trust move in Islamabad. A two-member bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Munib Akhtar is hearing the petition. The court had issued notices to Pakistan Tehrik Insaf and opposition parties Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl, Balochistan National Party-Mengal and Awami National Party to assist the court in the matter.
Opposition leaders Shahbaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman also reached the court in connection with the hearing.
No trust internal matter of NA: CJP
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that the no-trust motion was an internal matter of the National Assembly and therefore it would be better to fight the battle within the House.
During the hearing, the counsel for the SCBA, said the Speaker was had convene the session on no-confidence motion on March 25 instead of March 22. Under Article 95 of the Constitution, the session has to be convened within 14 days. The counsel said the Speaker had no right to delay the session more than 14 days, adding that session could not be adjourned indefinitely until the no-confidence motion is voted upon. The CJP said the matter of delay could be taken up with the Speaker.
The Chief Justice said that the court has to see that no one was deprived of voting due to any event, referring to the bar’s concerns that the opposition and government had announced holding of public gatherings at D-Chowk on March 27 ahead of the no-trust vote.
The CJP observed that voting was a constitutional right of the assembly members but the court was not persuaded in interfering with the proceedings of the assembly. The court only wanted to assure that the right of vote of an assembly member was not affected, the CJP observed.
Justice Omar Ata Bandial said political parties should show their political power in the parliament. The court has to play the role of mediator between the political leadership so that democracy could continue, the CJP observed.
MNA’s vote in no-trust motion a collective right: Justice Munib Akhtar
Supreme Court Justice Munib Akhtar observed that an assembly member’s individual vote during no-confidence proceedings was considered a “collective right”.
He said that according to Article 95(ii), which deals with the procedure to bring in a no-confidence motion against the prime minister, a member’s individual vote had no “status”, adding that the court had previously made similar observations in cases related to former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the bar wanted that MNAs be allowed to vote for whoever they wanted, remarking that if the SCBA went into too much detail, Justice Akhtar’s observation would become an obstacle. “The question is whether individual choice can be different from the party’s stance,” the chief justice said.
The bar’s counsel, Mansoor Usman, argued that parliamentarians should have the right to vote in their individual capacities at which Justice Akhtar asked which article allowed that.
The counsel mentioned Article 66 — related to members’ privileges — at which Justice Akhtar again asked how it gave the right to vote in individual capacity.
Article 66 protects parliamentary proceedings, the judge observed, adding, “According to Article 63, the case of a member’s vote can be brought to the court.” The chief justice added that any member’s right to vote was “not absolute”.
Attorney General Khalid Javed told the court that he had spoken to the Prime Minister on the issue of obstructing the members of the assembly from reaching the Assembly.
He said that there would be no crowd outside on the day of the no-confidence motion, not only on the day of the no-confidence motion but also on other days of the meeting.
No MNA to be barred from voting in the no-trust move: AGP
The Attorney General assured the court that there would be no crowd outside the Assembly any day and all the members would be able to come to the Assembly without any hindrance. The Attorney General said that no provision of the constitution prevents a deviant member from voting.
The AGP told the court that police and relevant agencies had been issued orders to not allow the public to enter the Red Zone during the NA session. He assured the court that parliamentary proceedings on the no-confidence vote would be conducted in accordance with the Constitution.
Islamabad Inspector General of Police (IGP) Qazi Jamilur Rehman informed the court that Section 144 was already in force in the capital and had been broadened to include the Red Zone. He said 15 protesters, including two MNAs, were arrested during storming of Sindh House in Islamabad.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that what happened at the Sindh House did “not seem to be the police’s failure”. The main issue is related to stopping MNAs from voting, the CJP observed.
Referring to the last hearing, the CJP said the purpose of the Saturday’s hearing had been to direct everyone to act in accordance with the Constitution. The CJP said it would be seen where the investigation into the Sindh House incident led.
Administration offers new venues to govt, opposition
Media reports said the Islamabad administration had barred the government and the opposition parties from holding public gatherings inside the Red Zone including the D-Chowk outside the parliament building. The administration offered the government to hold its public gathering at Parade Ground. Similarly, the opposition parties were allotted H-9 Park for its public gathering.