The Lahore High Court (LHC) directed on Tuesday that the president and Punjab governor be made respondents in a case related to Hamza Shehbaz’s election as the province’s chief minister.
A five-member bench, headed by Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan, and also comprising Justice Shahid Jamil Khan, Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry, Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, issued the directives while hearing a set of petitions filed by the PTI, PML-Q and Munir Ahmed, a citizen.
Hamza was elected as the Punjab chief minister on April 16, during a provincial assembly session that was marred by mayhem. He received a total of 197 votes — 11 more than the required 186 — including 25 from dissident PTI MPAs that were crucial for his victory.
Questions have been raised on the validity of his election since the Supreme Court said in a May 17 verdict that the votes of defecting lawmakers were not to be counted during a chief minister’s election and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) subsequently de-seated the PTI’s 25 dissident MPAs from the Punjab Assembly under Article 63-A of the COnstitution, which concerns the disqualification of lawmakers for defection.
The PTI had challenged Hamza’s election in the LHC on May 19, following which the court had sought the chief minister’s reply on the matter.
In his response submitted to the court yesterday, Hamza explained that while his election for the post of chief minister was held on April 16, the SC’s interpretation of Article 63-A was issued on May 17. Hence, the election could not be governed by the SC order, he said, adding that “it is settled law that any interpretation/annunciation of law by the superior courts is not to apply retrospectively, unless expressly stated otherwise”.
When the hearing resumed today, PTI’s counsel Azhar Siddique argued that the Constitution did not allow for the National Assembly speaker to administer oath to a chief minister.
Hamza was administered oath of office by NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on April 30 on the LHC’s orders after then-governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema’s repeated refusal to do so.
The LHC had issued the order on a third petition filed by Hamza after orders on the first two petitions were not implemented.
Siddique argued today that if the orders on the first two petitions were not implemented, Hamza should have filed one for contempt of court instead of a third petition.
Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Nasar Ahmad requested the court to make the federal government a respondent in the case instead of the Punjab governor.
However, Justice Sadaqat said the court wanted to hear from the president and the Punjab governor.
Subsequently, the court directed that they be made respondents through their respective secretaries and adjourned the case till June 1 (tomorrow).
Sibtain Khan and 16 other MPAs of the PTI had filed the appeal challenging the order by a single bench of the LHC on the third petition of Chief Minister Hamza against the delay in his oath-taking by the president and the then-governor.
The appeal said neither the president and governor were impleaded as respondents in the constitutional petition, nor any notice of hearing was issued enabling them to controvert the contentions raised by the respondent (Hamza) by filing reply.
It said important legal and constitutional questions raised on behalf of the PTI regarding the maintainability of Hamza’s petition had neither been noted nor repelled with reasons in impugned judgment.
It argued that mandatory provisions of law were not complied with and the single judge passed the impugned judgment without due process guaranteed under Articles 4 and 10-A of the Constitution.
Later, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who was also the PTI-PML-Q’s joint candidate for the CM Office, had also filed a petition challenging Hamza’s election.