As the time limit approaches, there may be confusion in the mind of National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza over the 30-day deadline, but most in the legal community are clear that the speaker has no option but to forward a reference against the prime minister to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
“The judgment is binding and the speaker has no power to interpret it,” says senior Supreme Court lawyer Abid Hassan Minto.
Minto told The Express Tribune that, after the apex court’s judgment, the prime minister has no other option but to leave his office and stands disqualified for five years. He said that if the speaker will not fulfil her constitutional duty then she can face contempt charges similar to the prime minister. The lawyer emphasised that the court’s decision was clear and it was now following the set procedure for disqualification.
Legal expert Dr Abdul Basit, on the other hand, said that, since the speaker’s decision in this case has no legal consequences, contempt proceedings against her are not required. In this case, the speaker’s office is no more than a post office of sorts, and if she failed to send the reference against the prime minister’s disqualification within 30 days, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) can take up this issue automatically. “The Supreme Court can also intervene to interpret the new controversy and then directly forward the reference to the ECP,” he said.
Advocate Salman Akram Raja said that the Supreme Court did not clarify this particular legal question because it was only examining the contempt matter against Premier Yousaf Raza Gilani. But, he said, it is binding on the speaker to forward a reference against the prime minister to the ECP after which the commission is supposed to dispose of the reference within 90 days.
Ahmad Raza Kasuri, who filed a quo warranto petition against the chief minister Punjab back in 2009 in the Lahore High Court for his disqualification, which caused governor rule in the province, said that if the speaker fails to act upon the apex court’s judgment then her decision can be challenged in the high court as he himself did against Shahbaz Sharif.
Kasuri said that the option of an appeal by the prime minister held little promise. If Prime Minister Gilani approaches the Supreme Court challenging its verdict against him, then the court may clarify the judgment instead. He said that the verdict of the court is clear in stating that the prime minister’s imprisonment tenure was curtailed because of the serious consequences caused by five years of disqualification. A senior lawyer of the Supreme Court also indicated that, in case of an appeal, the court can clarify its judgment once and forever.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2012.
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