IHC dismisses request for stay in plea over NA session delay

Court issues notices to Suri, others for April 22; asks petitioner to satisfy on interference in parliamentary issues


Saqib Bashir April 15, 2022
Islamabad High Court. PHOTO: IHC WEBSITE

ISLAMABAD:

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) rejected on Friday the request for a stay order against Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri's decision to delay the National Assembly (NA) session till April 22.

The hearing of the petition against the delay in the NA session began today with a larger bench headed by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, and comprising Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Babar Sattar.

Murtaza Javed Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), who filed the petition a day earlier, was represented by lawyers Mansoor Awan and Zainab Janjua.

The petition stated that the IHC should direct the deputy speaker to convene a session on April 16 to conduct the election of the speaker.

Counsel Mansoor Awan argued that the April 13 circular stated that the assembly would convene on April 22 instead of April 16, attached to the meeting is the election of the speaker of the National Assembly, in response to Justice Amir Farooq’s questions regarding the agenda of the assembly session.

“The National Assembly is functioning without a speaker; the speaker's office cannot be left vacant,” remarked Chief Justice Athar Minallah adding that this matter was under the purview of the internal proceedings of parliament.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that there was a period of at least seven days to convene the meeting, as the NA is functioning without a speaker and the deputy speaker is currently exercising the powers of the speaker. Mansoor Awan furthered that the rules stipulated that a speaker be elected as soon as possible.

“It is also a conflict of interest to adjourn the case when there is a notice to remove someone,” the advocate defended.

However, CJP Minallah stated that the proceedings were an internal matter of the house, especially since a date has been fixed for the election of a speaker. “There is no such restriction in the rules, only he [deputy speaker] cannot preside over the meeting on the day of his election,” he added.

The petitioner’s counsellor disagreed with the court, stating that the matter could not be linked to the internal proceedings of the parliament.

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Justice Amir Farooq questioned the petitioner as to the reason the session of the National Assembly was adjourned, to which the counsellor stated no reason had been provided.

“This is only being done to prolong the case and use delaying tactics,” the lawyer stated, arguing that courts were entitled to intervene on these grounds.

Mansoor Awan said there was a conflict of interest with the deputy speaker and no reason was provided for the postponing of the session. “You want the deputy speaker to further adjourn the session?” he asked the court.

The CJP upheld that the court could not interfere with the “dignity of parliament”, adding that there was no reason to doubt the deputy speaker’s intentions.

However, the court decided to take up the matter again on Aprill 22, and issued notices to Suri and other respondents for April 22. The chief justice also asked the petitioner to satisfy the court on the issue of non-interference in the proceedings of the parliament.

Notices were also issued to secretary of the National Assembly and secretary of parliamentary affairs for April 22.

“If the speaker is elected then the members have the right to take action against Deputy Speaker Suri on the grounds of no-confidence,” the CJP added.

The delay

On April 14, it was announced that Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri changed the schedule of the National Assembly session to be held for the election of speaker.

The NA Secretariat had earlier announced that the election for the seat of speaker would be held on April 16 at 4pm, with receipt of nomination papers on April 15. However on Thursday, it was notified that the session would be held on April 22 (Friday), instead of April 16.

The NA Secretariat said the schedule was changed by acting speaker Suri under Rule 49 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007.

The seat has been lying vacant following the resignation of former speaker Asad Qaiser on April 9, who announced that he is quitting ahead of the voting on the no-confidence resolution against Imran Khan.

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