IHC says it can’t give orders to NA speaker

ISLAMABAD: Athar Minallah, chief justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), remarked on Thursday that his court cannot issue orders to the speaker of the National Assembly.

He made the observation while hearing PTI’s petition on the piecemeal approval of the resignations of its MPs following Imran Khan’s ouster as prime minister in April.

At the outset of the hearing, Justice Minallah stated the court respects the sovereignty of the Parliament, adding that a similar petition was also filed before as well on this matter.

“Is this the political party’s policy,” wondered the judge, while acknowledging that rest of the PTI MPs’ resignations are yet to be accepted. People trusted the representatives and sent them to Parliament, he remarked.

“This court cannot issue orders to the speaker of the National Assembly,” remarked Justice Athar Minallah on the PTI’s petition directing the court to direct the custodian of the lower house to investigate their party’s resignations. He also observed that in the Shakoor Shad case IHC had only asked for a review.

“This is a political issue and Parliament is the place to resolve political tussles. You should hold dialogue with political parties to resolve problems,” said the IHC CJ. Do these resigned members really want to go to Parliament and resolve the people’s issue? he wondered.

“We have to see if the petitioners came with clean hands before the court or not,” remarked the judge.

At this, Barrister Ali Zafar, the counsel for the PTI lawmakers, told the court that his clients have not come against party policy.

However, the judge observed that the petitioners had themselves admitted that their resignations were “genuine”.

But the lawyer told the court that his clients believe that Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf did not fulfil his constitutional obligation. The resignations were given on the condition that all 123 will be accepted, he added and reminded the court that only 11 were accepted.

“We say that the resignations given were conditional. If all the members’ resignations were not accepted then the condition was not met,” said Zafar. He also added that the resignations were not accepted without a proper inquiry, sharing that the current number of resignations laying before the speaker was 112.

At this, Justice Minallah observed that the MNAs whose resignations were pending should be in Parliament. It is their responsibility to represent people in parliament, he added.

Zafar responded to this by saying that going to Parliament was a “secondary issue”.

“Then by being members of Parliament they are virtually boycotting the assembly. Think about this and submit an affidavit,” said the judge. In 70 years courts have been involved in a lot of political matters and this has harmed the judiciary as an institution, he observed.

“This is not a member’s issue, but is also of the people of those constituencies who no longer have representation in Parliament,” said the IHC CJ. He, once again, observed that the members in question have admitted that their resignations were genuine.

At this, the counsel for the petitioners assured the court that the resignation letters were genuine but conditional. We say all resignations were genuine and must be accepted, he said.

“Is your stance that the party forced them to resign? If this is the case then you are going against party policy,” said Justice Minallah.

However, Zafar assured the court that the lawmakers were not going against party policy and clarified that their stance is that the speaker did not fulfill his constitutional obligation.

“Audio leaks have shown how 11 members’ resignations were accepted. Our political objective was to vacate 123, our aim was not achieved so we believe that everyone is still an MNA,” said Zafar.

At this, Justice Minallah remarked that the MNAs that have not been de-notified should sit in Parliament.

“Parliament has been disrespected a lot, do not turn democracy into joke”, said Justice Minallah.

But Zafar told the court it was not possible for the PTI to return to the Parliament as the audio leaks have come forward and 11 members have been kicked out.

Once again, Justice Minallah reiterated that political uncertainty in the country can only be ended in Parliament.

“These things are not done through talking but with your conduct,” said the judge.

To this, Zafar once again told the court that he cannot comment on the MPs’ return to Parliament at this point in time. This depends on the party policy, he added.

“If you suspend the order for the acceptance of resignations then we can go and speak to the speaker,” Zafar told the court.

“The court will not facilitate you in political dialogue, petitioners say they do not accept the parliament. They want to maintain political instability which is not in the interest of the country,” observed IHC CJ.

At this, Zafar told the court that the petitioners never stated that they do not accept the Parliament.

“Court can adjourn the hearing till tomorrow. Go to Parliament and prove your good intentions. Political tussles should be resolved in parliament, not in court,” said IHC CJ.

But the lawyer instead requested the court to give him half an hour to speak to his clients.

At this point, the court suspended for a break and the IHC CJ gave an hour to the lawyer to inform him of his client’s decision.

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