The Lahore High Court’s (LHC) larger bench has sought assistance from Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz’s counsel on whether or not the bench can bypass or ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling on defections under Article 63-A.
On April 16, Hamza was elected as the Punjab CM in the provincial assembly marred by mayhem. He got 197 votes – 11 more than the required 186 – including that of 25 dissident PTI MPAs.
The PTI and PML-Q both in May filed similar petitions in the court against Hamza’s election as the CM, which have both been clubbed by LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti.
On June 1, the PTI once again moved the court against Hamza’s election as the CM after the Election Commission of Pakistan de-seated 25 of its MPAs for defecting and the SC’s May 17 ruling in which it stated that the votes of defectors should not be counted.
The five-member bench, headed by Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan, raised the question while hearing intra-court appeals against LHC’s three orders — one against the decision of LHC’s Justice Jawad Hassan who had directed the National Assembly speaker to administer the oath to newly elected CM Hamza — two against LHC CJ Bhatti’s decisions wherein he had first ordered the president of Pakistan to nominate anyone to administer the oath to Hamza and secondly he had advised the Punjab governor to ensure administration of the oath.
In earlier proceedings, the LHC bench had sought assistance from Advocate Mansoor Usman Awan, representing Hamza, upon three points “whether the governor’s letter to president of Pakistan could be considered a report, if the report is dispatched to president then will the governor wait for the president’s response on it and what the Constitution proposes if the governor’s report is proved incorrect”.
As the proceedings commenced on Tuesday, Justice Sadaqat remarked that the issue of Hamza’s oath as Punjab chief minister becomes secondary after SC’s judgment on dissident members.
“The question is whether or not this larger bench could bypass the SC judgment. If you satisfy us on this point then we will come to the issue of oath-taking,” Justice Sadaqat remarked.
Hamza’s counsel Awan argued that the SC’s judgment had no retrospective effect on his client’s case as neither did the SC specifically underline the matter nor was Hamza’s election under challenge at that time.
Justice Sadaqat remarked that a matter is pending before a single bench wherein the proceedings are revolving around a specific point that whether or not the SC judgment had a retrospective effect. “If that court decides this point, then the matter before this larger bench will become infructuous but if the decision comes otherwise, we will then decide on this matter.”
Meanwhile, PTI counsel Azhar Siddique requested the bench that Hamza be restrained from rendering administrative work till the decision of the case in light of the SC judgment. However, the bench remarked the matter will be decided in accordance with the law.
Punjab Advocate General Shahzad Shaukat also sought three days to properly assist the court.
The bench has fixed June 13 for further arguments.
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