If Punjab governor asked CM for trust vote, it should have been implemented, observes LHC – Pakistan

A Lahore High Court (LHC) judge observed on Friday that if the Punjab governor asked the chief minister to seek a vote of confidence from the provincial assembly, his orders should have been implemented.

The remarks were made by Justice Abid Aziz Shaikh who is heading the five-member bench that has taken up PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi’s plea challenging Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman’s de-notification orders.

The bench also includes Justices Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal, Tariq Saleem Sheikh, Asim Hafeez and Muzamil Akhtar Shabir.

On Thursday night, the Punjab governor sprang into action and denotified Elahi as chief minister of the largest province in a bid to forestall ousted premier Imran Khan’s plan to dissolve the Punjab Assembly (PA).

In his order dated Dec 22, the governor said that since the chief minister had refrained from taking a vote of confidence at the appo­i­nted day and time, he ceased to hold the office. Rehman, however, asked Elahi to continue working as chief minister until his successor takes charge.

Earlier today, the PML-Q leader approached the court today, saying the move was “unconstitutional, unlawful and of no legal effect”

At the outset of the hearing today, Elahi’s lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar presented his arguments, saying that his client was elected as the chief minister on July 22.

“He got the required number of votes in the assembly but the then deputy speaker had removed 10 votes. The matter was then taken to the Supreme Court.

“The top court, in its verdict, had invalidated the deputy speaker’s decision and said that Parvez Elahi was, lawfully, the chief minister of Punjab,” he said.

Zafar contended that a chief minister could only be removed from the post through a no-confidence vote. “A [no-trust] motion can be tabled with the signatures of 20 MPAs.”

He stressed that a chief minister was elected by assembly members and could only be removed by them. “If the governor thinks that the chief minister has lost his majority, he can call for a vote of confidence and a separate session can be held for it.”

However, Zafar argued, the governor could not determine the day and time for the vote of confidence.

Here, the court asked that if a timeframe of three to seven days could be given for a vote of no-confidence, “then why not for a vote of confidence?”

Elahi’s counsel responded that there was a “procedure established for the vote of confidence under which members are given a notice”.

Here, the court asked if voting could take place on the same day the notices were issued.

“The speaker has the authority to issue notices and hold the voting on the same day,” Zafar replied.

He elaborated that if the speaker sets a day for the vote of confidence and the chief minister refuses to attend it, “only then can the governor pass orders”.

However, the lawyer argued that Elahi never objected to a vote of confidence. “The assembly has to be called by the speaker as the chief minister can not do the same. But when a session was not held, how can the governor issue orders?

“It is like two people are fighting but the third person is being punished.”

Here, Justice Sheikh observed: “If the governor has called for a vote of confidence, his orders should have been implemented.”

He said that the “entire business” of calling the assembly session for a vote of confidence could still be held, adding that the “crisis can end if a time for voting is given”.

“But this is only possible if the de-notification order is annulled,” Zafar argued.

To that, Justice Sheikh said that the court would decide on this matter according to the law.

At one point during the hearing, Zafar said that Punjab was the biggest province of the country and there were multiple projects underway in the Punjab cabinet. “If the chief minister stays, the cabinet would stay.”

However, the judge pointed out that the governor had instructed Elahi to stay in office until a new chief minister was elected.

sprung into action to prevent Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi from dissolving the Punjab Assembly.

In a double-edged move on Monday, the Punjab governor asked the chief minister to obtain a vote of confidence from the Punjab Assembly, while PML-N and PPP lawmakers submitted a separate no-trust resolution against him in a bid to bar him from dissolving the assembly.

However, Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan termed the governor’s orders as “illegal, against the provisions of the Constitution and thus stand disposed of”.

In his two-page ruling, the speaker maintained that the governor’s orders were not in accordance with Article 54(3) and Article 127. “The house is in session since Oct 23, 2022, and under Articles 54(3) and 127. No fresh session can be convened unless and until the current one ends,” the order read.

Subsequently, on Wednesday, the Punjab governor termed the speaker’s ruling “unconstitutional”.

In his order, the governor said under Article 130(7) of the Constitution that PA speaker’s ruling had no bearing on his order and termed it unconstitutional. The governor said the speaker’s ruling was also in violation of Rule 209 of the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997.

Lawyers reached by Dawn for their comments differ on the governor’s orders issued to the chief minister, they were unanimous that a legal battle appears to be the only way forward for the resolution of the current crisis in Punjab.

In a late-night move on Thursday, the governor de-notified Elahi. In an order, he said: “Consequent to the facts that Ch. Parvez Elahi … refrained from obtaining the vote of confidence at 1600 hours yesterday (Wednesday), in line with an order under Article 130(7) of the Constitution … issued under my hand on Dec 19, 2022, in line with Rule 22(7) of the Rules of Procedure of provincial assembly of Punjab, 1997, and that he still has not done so even after the lapse of another 24 hours, I am satisfied that he does not command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Punjab Assembly, and therefore ceases to hold his office with immediate effect.”

As a result, “the provincial cabinet stands dissolved forthwith”, he said.

In terms of Article 133 of the Constitution, Mr Elahi, “former Punjab CM, is hereby asked to continue to hold office until his successor enters upon the office of the chief minister”, the governor said.

However, it remains to be seen whether the governor’s late-night order will hold the field or not.

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