The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) is not ready to intervene in the proceedings of the National Assembly. The remarks came during the hearing of a petition filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).
To clarify, SCBA filed the petition last week asking the court to restrain ‘political parties from holding public meetings in Islamabad before voting on the no-confidence motion’. The SCBA raised concerns regarding a possible anarchic situation on the day of the no-trust move.
A two-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Akhtar, heard the petition today. Opposition leaders — PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman — also attended the hearing.
During the hearing, the SCBA counsel highlighted the National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser’s decision to summon a session on March 25th. According to Article 95, the speaker has to call the session 14 days after the submission of a no-confidence motion. However, Asad Qaiser summoned the session on March 25th which is 17 days after the Opposition submitted the no-confidence motion.
Listening to the SCBA’s arguments regarding the delay in the voting on the no-confidence motion, the CJP said that “these are the internal matters of the assembly,” adding that it would be better to fight internal battles inside the premises of the Assembly.
“The court is not convinced on interfering in the NA’s affairs. It only wants that no one’s right to vote affected,” CJP Bandial remarked during the hearing.
Furthermore, Justice Munib Akhtar noted that a member’s individual vote in a no-confidence proceeding is a “collective right” after joining a political party.
To clarify, members’ individual votes have no “status” under Article 95(ii). He added that the court had previously made similar observations in cases related to former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
Meanwhile, the bar’s counsel, Mansoor Usman, argued that parliamentarians should have the right to vote in their individual capacities. At this, Justice Akhtar asked which article allowed that.
The counsel mentioned Article 66 — related to members’ privileges — at which Justice Akhtar again asked how it gave the right to vote in individual capacity.
Article 66 protects parliamentary proceedings, the judge observed, adding, “According to Article 63, the case of a member’s vote can be brought to the court”. The chief justice added that any member’s right to vote was “not absolute”.
It couldn't be clearer: "MNA's individual vote in the no-trust proceeding has no status": Justice Munib
— Umair Jamal (@UmairJamal15) March 21, 2022
A SC judge says the MNA’s vote belongs NOT to him but the Party, in other words, he has surrendered it to the Party. So? It can’t be counted! And because he disobeyed Party instructions he can be expelled and lose his seat? If so. Game over! The NCM fails!
— Zafar Hilaly (@ZafarHilaly) March 21, 2022
یہ چیز میرے عزیز۔۔۔۔۔۔۔
ووٹ کا حق سیاسی جماعت کا ہوتا ہے, انفرادی ووٹ کی کوئی حیثیت نہیں ہے۔۔۔ pic.twitter.com/aDIXkHNeLV
— Waqas Amjad ( محترم ) (@waqas_amjaad) March 21, 2022
This is rather an interesting development as several PTI MNAs are siding with the Opposition for the no-trust move. Meanwhile, the PTI served show-cause notices to the dissident MNAs, asking them to either apologize to PM Khan or resign.
Read more: PTI to disqualify rebellious MNAs