Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti on Friday directed President Dr Arif Alvi to deputise someone to administer the oath Punjab chief minister -elec Hamza Shahbaz.
The LHC’s office will submit the order before the presidential office and the president will depute a person for the said purpose.
Earlier in the day, Chief Justice Bhatti had observed that the AGP had till 2pm today to communicate with governor Cheema regarding his duty to draft an explanation to the president, “otherwise the court will pass its order.”
The LHC CJ’s order came during the hearing of a petition filed by Hamza Shahbaz against Punjab Governor Omar Sarfaraz Cheema delaying administering the oath of office to him. The high court’s order came after two short intervals during Friday’s proceedings.
During the day’s proceedings the Advocate General of Punjab (AGP) Ahmad Awais argued that the governor was not answerable to the court, instead he would write a letter to the president of Pakistan describing the causes of delay in the oath administration.
CJ Bhatti had stated earlier in the day that a ‘final order’ will be passed if the provincial governor failed to inform the president of his reason for delaying the oath administration.
AGP Awais argued that the “governor has immunity and is not bound to give his explanation before the court”, prompting a response from CJ Bhatti, who said that “he has the great honour of the governor’s slot; however, it is his obligation to respect others if he demands respect.”
The chief justice clarified his stance stating that he was not impeding on the immunity of the governor, instead accusing him of violating the Constitution. “If the governor will not explain himself then who will answer to the constitutional crises that prevails in the province?” CJ Bhatti questioned.
AGP Awais defended the governor, saying that he was functioning within the purview of the law. To this CJ Bhatti questioned, “Where he is functioning there is no cabinet; the province is at a standstill. If he is working, then why has the matter of administering the oath not been resolved?”
The AGP stated that the governor may write to the president in a few days to elaborate his failure to administer the oath.
The chief justice asked whether the Punjab governor would be writing a letter today, remarking that the LHC will not deem him honourable if he violates the Constitution.
First phase of proceedings
As proceedings commenced on Friday, AGP Awais raised an objection, arguing that the speaker of the Punjab Assembly has not been made a respondent in the petition. He elaborated that in the absence of a governor , the speaker administers the oath.
However, CJ Bhatti did not agree with the AGP’s interpretation, stating that his argument revolves around an assumption. “How could we assume the governor will be absent that day?” Bhatti remarked.
Upon Ahmad Awais’ insistence that the oath could be administered by the speaker, the LHC CJ asked whether the governor had written a letter to the concerned authority regarding his absence. “is there anything in black and white?” he asked.
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The AGP’s argument stating that the issue was of an important nature and required time, irked the high court justice. He maintained that he understood the sensitivity of the issue. “This is why you people have done nothing since April 16 when the then acting speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari had intimated the governor about the results,” he remarked.
Second phase of proceedings
AGP Awais assured the court that governor Cheema will write to President Alvi within 24 hours, and provide a reason for the delay.
Hamza Shehbaz’s counsel argued that there were citations and that the Constitution was “very clear on the matter”. The counsel requested the LHC to pass an order to prevent the governor from delaying the matter further on varied pretexts.
During the previous proceeding, on April 21, the court had directed AGP Ahmad Awais, not present in court, to appear before the court on April 22 after obtaining instructions from the governor over his delay.
Petitioner Hamza Shehbaz Sharif had implored the court that he has been elected as the chief minister of Punjab in the provincial assembly session held on April 16 under the LHC’s direction.
He secured 197 votes out of 371, a clear majority, after which the then acting speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari provided the copies of the result to the governor of Punjab to fulfill his requirements under Rule 21 of the Rules of Procedure.
However, the respondent governor has been reluctant to administer the oath following his ‘vested interests’.