The Islamabad High Court (IHC) reserved on Wednesday a verdict on former Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani’s petition challenging the election of the Senate chairman.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah took up the petition. After a preliminary hearing, the court reserved its judgment on the maintainability of the petition, which is likely to be announced shortly.
During the hearing, the top IHC judge suggested that the petitioner could send a reference to the National Assembly speaker under Article 63 to have his grievance redressed.
“Has the Senate chairman ever been removed from the post in the past?” Justice Minallah asked Farooq H Naek, who represented Gillani. “What is the procedure for removal of the Senate chairman?” he further asked.
The judge observed that the court abstains from unnecessarily intervening in the matter. “You can take the matter to a Senate committee,” he suggested. At this, the counsel said no committee has powers to dislodge the Senate chairman.
Senator Gillani moved the petition through his counsel Farooq H Naek requesting the high court to declare the result of the election of Senate chairman held on March 12 “illegal, unlawful and void”.
He further demanded that the IHC declare the rejection of seven votes polled in favour of the petitioner illegal and suspend the notification dated March 13 regarding the re-election of Sadiq Sanjrani as Senate chairman and restrain him from carrying out his duties in this capacity until this petition is decided.
Gillani alleged in his petition that the government attempted to influence the result of the election to the seat of Senate chairman to win it by hook or crook.
“During the process of counting of votes the Presiding Officer (Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah) arbitrarily rejected 7 of the votes (the rejected votes) cast in the petitioner’s favour on the ground that stamp is affixed on the name of the petitioner despite the protest of the petitioner’s polling agent Senator Farooq H. Naek that the stamp had been fixed within the box containing the name of the petitioner,” he contended.
“The votes rejected by the presiding officer clearly evince the voter’s intent to vote for the petitioner and no one else,” the petitioner argued. Moreover, he added, these are in compliance with the notice affixed near the polling booth as well as the understanding conveyed by the Senate secretary.
Can parliament’s proceedings be challenged in Court?
Senator Mohsin Aziz of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), who was polling agent of Sadiq Sanjrani in the election of Senate chairman, said in a TV programme that according to Rules of Procedure & Conduct of Business in Senate 2012, the proceedings of the Senate and National Assembly could not be challenged in the court of law.
He reje cted the opposition’s contention that seven votes cast in favour of PDM candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani were illegally rejected and said the opposition members had intentionally wasted their votes. “They wasted their votes either under pressure or any commitment as they were not ready to vote for PDM,” he claimed, adding that these seven voters of the PDM came up openly in favour of the government’s candidate for the slot of deputy chairman.
Former Secretary Election Commissioner Kanwar Dilshad appeared on GEO News and argued that the proceedings in this specific case can be challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. “I think the votes should have not been rejected,” he opined.
According to the latest reports, a plea will be filed with the Islamabad High Court (IHC) today by Farooq H Naek soon after acquiring the documents regarding votes rejection during the Senate chairman slot election. The PDM has stated in its plea that a stamp on the name of the candidate, cannot lead to rejection of the vote. Seven votes cast in Gilani’s favor were deliberately rejected by the Presiding Officer Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah. Gilani will be declared the winner if the rejected votes were counted, the plea say.
Interestingly, the IHC on Wednesday dismissed a petition filed by PTI’s Ali Awan challenging the Senate victory of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. “You are a good and respectable public representative, why have you brought such a petition,” IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, adding that “this writ petition is not admissible on this occasion.” “It is not appropriate to bring political issues to the court unnecessarily,” the judge said.
There is an argument that judicialization of parliamentary affairs likely to leads towards centralization of power which ultimately challenges the supremacy of the parliament. Hence, some commentators believe, the court is unlikely to issue any verdict in this case even if it is approached. Some insiders are also of the view that PPP’s several leaders are not in favor of going to the court for this matter. “It would be better to approach ECP, but not the court for a review of the electoral process,” some PPP leaders reportedly told Bilawal.