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Punjab CM Elections: LHC restores deputy speaker’s powers, allows him to conduct session

LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti directed all stakeholders to fulfill their constitutional duties

The Lahore High Court on Wednesday rejected a petition seeking to hold elections for the Punjab chief minister seat earlier than April 16, holding that Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari would conduct the house proceedings.

LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti announced the verdict reserved on Tuesday after the counsels of all petitioners concluded their arguments.

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In a three-page verdict, Justice Bhatti directed all the parties in the case to ensure impartiality and to complete the voting process under the law. He also directed the Punjab Assembly secretary to complete the renovation work of the provincial assembly by April 15.

The CJ held, “Impugned order dated 06.04.2022 in Writ petition No. 21711/2022, whereby the powers of the deputy speaker in terms of Rule 25 of the Rules of Procedure were withdrawn, being contrary to Article 53(3) of the Constitution by virtue of which Deputy Speaker in absence of the Speaker attained the status of Speaker for this Session, completely overriding the powers provided in Rules, is hereby set-aside.”

Barrister Ali Zafar appeared as the counsel for Chaudhary Pervez Elahi while Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar represented Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Hamza Shehbaz. Advocate Amir Saeed Rawn served as the counsel of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leader Kamil Ali Agha. Punjab Advocate General Ahmed Awais and officials of the Punjab Assembly were also present.

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Barrister Ali Zafar argued that the election was an internal matter of the legislative assembly, and that any ruling of the speaker to adjourn the proceeding for a certain date was his prerogative.

“When a session is to be adjourned and when it has to start, the courts do not have such powers to interfere. It is like that a provincial assembly starts asking the courts about pending cases,” argued Barrister Zafar.

He also contended that the speaker had the powers to fix any date for election of the Punjab chief minister.

At this, Justice Bhatti asked him how the speaker, while being a candidate for the office of Punjab chief minister could hold the election. The chief justice asked all the parties to sit together and solve the matter amicably. But as the hearing commenced at 2:00pm, the CJ remarked, “You people did not reach any point. Now the law will take its course.”

Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar opposed Zafar’s arguments and said that the Supreme Court of Pakistan intervened and decided the matter of the National Assembly. He said the top court rejected the ruling of the deputy speaker and declared the decision of dissolving the National Assembly as null and void. Advocate Amir Saeed Rawn also argued that a no-trust motion was moved against the deputy speaker and therefore, he was not able to conduct the proceedings of the house.

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