National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza went beyond her jurisdiction by interfering in a concluded judgment, the Supreme Court stated in its detailed verdict in the speaker ruling case on Tuesday. The speaker ruling case is based on the contempt of court case against the then prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani.
The judgment, authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, rejected the objections raised by Gilani’s counsel Aitzaz Ahsan and Attorney General Irfan Qadir over the bench’s decision to convict Gilani and over the maintainability of the petitions.
The verdict agreed with the petitioners in the case – prominent amongst them, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The chief justice held that the speaker need not have issued another verdict after a final one had been issued by the court. Instead, the court argued, she should have merely forwarded the matter to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
“The ruling of the speaker declaring that no question of disqualification of the respondent had arisen despite a concluded judgment of the apex court defied the principles of the independence of the judiciary and trichotomy of powers, and also constituted a violation of the due process clause under Article 10A of the Constitution,” the top judge of the country said, adding that all this has made it a case suitable for invoking the original jurisdiction of this court.
The verdict also mentioned that the wilful and deliberate defiance of a direction in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case brought the entire country’s judiciary into ridicule.
The chief justice mentioned that since Gilani had not filed an appeal against his sentence, “the speaker had no judicial power to ignore the judgment dated 26 April, 2012 on the ground that no specific charge regarding propagation of any opinion or acting in any manner against the independence of judiciary or defaming, ridiculing the judiciary as contemplated by Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution had been framed.”
The court observed that surprisingly, the NA speaker had in fact effectively made an attempt to overrule the judgment.
The judgment also made it clear that like the speaker, the ECP cannot sit in appeal over a concluded judgment of a superior court, and has to affirm that the convicted person has become disqualified thereby rendering his seat vacant.
The fact that Gilani did not file an appeal also meant that the judgment and all its consequences attained finality, the verdict stated – including his disqualification from being a member of Parliament on and from the day of his conviction and sentence.
The judgment also recalled the concept of a trichotomy of powers, namely the legislature, executive and judiciary, in a democratic government. This trichotomy was therefore a result of the freedom people fought for in Pakistan, the court stated.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2012.
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