LAHORE: Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman has withdrawn his order to denotify Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi following he won a vote of confidence in the provincial assembly.
The lawyer for the Punjab governor informed the Lahore High Court about the governor’s move as a five-judge larger bench heard a petition filed by Pervaiz Elahi challenging Balighur Rehman’s denotification order.
The court also declared null and void the notification issued by the Punjab chief secretary removing Pervaiz Elahi as leader of the house in provincial assembly
Last month, the Punjab governor had denotified Pervaiz Elahi as the chief minister of the province in a bid to forestall ousted premier Imran Khan’s plan to dissolve the Punjab Assembly.
Pervaiz Elahi had challenged the governor’s order of last month after he was denotified as chief minister. However, the LHC had restored him when he assured the bench that he will not dissolve the assembly till the next hearing.
A five-member bench headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh — comprising Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabir, and Justice Asim Hafeez — heard the case.
While the governor’s counsel, Mansoor Usman Awan, also confirmed to the bench that the chief minister had taken the vote of confidence. “Is the governor satisfied with the vote of confidence?” asked Justice Abid Sheikh.
The LHC then took a break for 30 minutes. When the hearing resumed, the governor’s lawyer requested the bench for more time to take instructions from his client. The bench approved the request and adjourned the hearing, once again.
Following the resumption of the hearing, governor’s lawyer Awan informed the bench that he had spoken to his client and he had confirmed the vote of confidence. “The governor has taken back the denotification order,” said the lawyer.
“You have resolved the matter within the assembly this is a good thing. Everything has happened according to the law and constitution,” remarked Justice Abid after hearing the governor’s lawyer. He added that they want minimum court intervention on such matters.
The court also made the lawyer’s statement on the governor’s decision part of the record and ruled that the CM was successful in passing the floor test.
Meanwhile, Justice Hafeez remarked that he would be giving an additional note in the verdict, adding that the bench will not go into the matter of delivering justice in this case.
The bench then disposed of the petition.
Earlier, the Lahore High Court (LHC) was informed on Thursday that Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has taken vote of confidence from the provincial assemblyl.
A five-judge LHC larger bench, led by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh, heard the petitions regarding denotifying of the provincial chief executive by the governor.
As the proceedings started, Pervaiz Elahi’s lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar informed the court that the chief minister has taken the trust vote with the support of 186 members of the Punjab legislature.
Barrister Ali Zafar told the court “Pervaiz Elahi has taken vote of confidence. 186 members of the house reposed their trust in the chief minister.”
Punjab Assembly speaker’s lawyer submitted the notification regarding Pervaiz Elahi’s fresh vote of confidence in the court.
On this occasion, Justice Abid Sheikh turned his attention towards the Governor’s counsel “Pervaiz Elahi has taken the confidence vote. What would you say now?”
Justice Asim Hafeez asked what would be the situation if the governor issues another notification.
Justice Abid Sheikh inquired whether governor is now satisfied with confidence vote. In reaction, Punjab governor’s lawyer said the trust vote record should be made part of the court proceedings.
Justice Abid Sheikh asked Barrister Ali Zafar the floor test has been conducted. “Now would you still want hearing on your petition challenging the CM’s removal through denotification?” he said.
Barrister Ali Zafar said he wanted to submit brief arguments on this point. “We have enough votes. It’s a matter of principle. The governor should give reasons for his action.”
He further said apparently the plea has become ineffective and the governor’s notification was not in accordance with the law.
“There were two notifications before us: one about taking the vote of confidence and the other about the de-notification,” Justice Abid Aziz Shaikh remarked.
“We also learn a lot from you. [Now] you say that the Governor’s order is not in accordance with the law,” he said to Barrister Ali Zafar.
“If the order of the Punjab governor is annulled, the chief minister’s vote from the assembly will be of no importance,” he added.
“If he [chief minister] has taken the vote of confidence, we can give a ruling on the Governor’s order,” he stated.
“After taking the vote of confidence, one issue has been resolved. The issue now remains whether the Governor’s notification was correct or not,” he pointed out.
“You have taken the vote of confidence under Article 137,” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh remarked.
“If you say that the Governor’s order is illegal, the matter will go to the end,” Justice Asim Hafeez emphasised.
“If we have to look at the Governor’s order, we have to look at everything,” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh stated.
“You have found a ‘good’ solution to it. You took the vote of confidence for the satisfaction of the Governor,” he added.
“The removal of the chief minister by the Governor was illegal,” Barrister Ali Zafar argued.
“Should the court make a unanimous decision?” Justice Abid Aziz asked from Barrister Ali Zafar.
“The court should give its finding on it,” Barrister Ali Zafar replied.
“Now we have three questions. On one question, you took the vote of confidence,” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh said.
“On the second question of adequate time, I will assist the court,” Barrister Ali Zafar told the court.
“The third question will be whether the chief minister can be sent home for not taking the vote of confidence when there is no session,” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh remarked.
“The question of fixing the date may also be raised by the Governor,” he added.
“After taking the vote of confidence, you can say that 186 members are with you,” Justice Asim Hafeez said to Barrister Ali Zafar.
“You are saying that you have completed the test of the Governor’s first notification,” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh said to Barrister Ali Zafar.
Mansoor Awan Advocate told the court that it had already suspended the de-notification of the chief minister by the Governor.
“Even if your claim was strong, the stance of the Governor would have been considered strong without the vote of confidence,” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh said.
“You have taken the vote of confidence under sub-section 7 of Article 137 of the Constitution,” Justice Asim Hafeez said.
“Now it’s your assembly. Go and deal with your affairs,” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh said to Barrister Ali Zafar.
“Suppose the Governor’s order is considered unconstitutional, what will be its logical conclusion? The Governor’s orders have constitutional protection,” Justice Asim Hafeez questioned.
“If you go into detail, the whole matter will be revealed. Then it will also have to be seen whether you fulfilled the legal requirement by obtaining the vote of confidence,” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh remarked.
“You took a good step by taking the vote of confidence. The court should be assisted regarding the de-notification of the chief minister by the Governor. Assistance should also be extended to the court regarding whether the Governor gave adequate time for the vote of confidence. The question should also be answered whether the Governor can fix the date,” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh said.
“How will the Punjab governor determine that he can order for the vote of confidence again?” Justice Asim Hafeez questioned.
“When he will feel it important,” Mansoor Awan Advocate replied.
“Do we have any idea what to do?” Justice Asim Hafeez questioned again.
“Will the Governor issue such orders every time?” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh pointed out.
“How will the Governor be satisfied that the chief minister has the majority?” Justice Asim Hafeez continued.
“Will the case against such actions of the Governor be taken to the court or will the speaker of the assembly decide?” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh asked from Barrister Ali Zafar.
“According to the decisions of the high courts, the Governor and the President are bound to implement the law,” Barrister Ali Zafar replied.
“The Governor has the authority,” the attorney general said.
“Only the Governor can ask the chief minister to take the vote of confidence,” Justice Asim Hafeez remarked.
“Today, if the case is decided, and tomorrow, the governor issues such an order, what will be the situation then,” he continued.
“The matter will go to the assembly floor itself,” Mansoor Awan Advocate told the court.
“The question arises if the governor orders to take the vote of confidence again, what will be the consequences?” Justice Asim Hafeez questioned.
“If the governor orders to take the vote of confidence again, how will it be determined that the Governor’s reasons are satisfactory?” Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh pointed out.
“Is it necessary that every session of the assembly has confidence of the Governor?” he added.
“After the vote of confidence process is completed, can the Governor repeat the same process again next week?” Justice Asim Hafeez said.
Assembly dissolution ‘next in line’
Talking to reporters after the hearing, Pervaiz Elahi’s lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar said that after the court’s verdict, the PML-Q leader was now restored as the CM. “The next step is dissolution which is a political matter and it has nothing to do with the court. Political leadership will decide about it,” he said.
Ali Zafar clarified that the undertaking signed by Pervaiz Elahi previously, in which he had assured the court that he won’t dissolve the Punjab Assembly, was an “interim order”. “The case has finally been decided and the undertaking is no more in place. The Constitution clearly says that the chief minister has the right to dissolve the assembly,” he added.