LHC reserved verdict on Hamza Shehbaz petition

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LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti on Tuesday reserved verdict on a petition of Punjab Chief Minister-elect Hamza Shehbaz seeking a direction to the Senate chairman to administer oath to him (petitioner).

At the outset of the hearing, Hamza’s counsel Ashtar Ausaf argued that President Dr Arif Alvi and Punjab Governor Umar Sarfraz Cheema despite an order passed by the court failed to decide the matter of the petitioner’s oath and opted to toe their party line at the cost of violation of the Constitution.

Additional Attorney General Malik Naveed Sohail told the court that the governor sent a summary on the matter to the president who forwarded the same to the prime minister.

He further said that the order of the court had been received by the president and advice sought from the prime minister’s office.

The chief justice asked the law officer whether advice from the prime minister’s house was needed in the case as the directions in the previous order were for the president.

Advocate General of Punjab Ahmad Awais said the matter of the chief minister’s election was being reviewed at the president’s house.

The chief justice posed a query that under what law the president was viewing the matter of the election. Chief Justice Bhatti observed that the deputy speaker conducted the election of the chief minister in light of the court’s order. He said the deputy speaker was a presiding officer and not a layman.

The AGP said the president and the governor enjoyed immunity under the Constitution. He argued that the petition was not maintainable.

The CJ observed that all knew what had been done with the Constitution during the last 25 days. He asked the law officer where it was written in the Constitution that a province could be deprived of its chief executive for weeks.

The CJ asked the AGP under what law the governor held an inquiry into the election of the chief minister.

AGP Awais said this time the matter was different from past as anti-riot police entered the assembly hall for the first time in history and the deputy speaker conducted the election standing in the gallery.

“But you are not talking about what happened with the deputy speaker in the assembly,” Chief Justice Bhatti asked the AGP.

Advocate Ausaf said the governor had no power to refuse oath to a chief minister-elect. The AGP said someone else could administer the oath in case of the governor’s refusal.

The chief justice reminded the law officer that the court had stated the same in its previous order.

After hearing the arguments, the chief justice reserved his verdict in the petition, which is likely to be announced on Wednesday (today).

On April 22, the LHC, in a petition of Hamza, ruled that the governor could not refuse oath to a newly-elected chief minister of a province and expected that the president would nominate any person to administer oath to Hamza Shehbaz without a delay.

In his fresh petition, Hamza said it was evident that the governor and the president were not ready to obey the court order, therefore, it was imperative that a person be nominated by the court in order to protect the Constitution and to enforce its provisions with full force.

The petitioner said the conduct of the governor and the president was contemptuous and tantamount to implications of Article 6 of the Constitution.

However, Hamza said he did not want to press these provisions for the time being and would resort to such lawful actions at a later appropriate time.

The petitioner asked the court to order the Senate chairman to administer oath to him.

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