NA speaker urges Supreme Court justices to ‘avoid involvement in political thicket’

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President of the National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf (left) and Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial.  - Twitter/@NAofPakistan/Supreme Court of Pakistan website
President of the National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf (left) and Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial. — Twitter/@NAofPakistan/Supreme Court of Pakistan’s website
  • “We must work together to uphold the constitution,” the speaker writes.
  • Letter to CJP Bandial mentions the court’s infringement of NA’s powers.
  • Ashraf refers in letter to the powers of Article 73, 79 to 85.

In a letter addressed to Supreme Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf wrote on Wednesday that the country’s highest court should “avoid as much as possible getting involved in the political thicket”.

The speaker wrote the letter to the nation’s highest judge regarding the court’s infringement of the National Assembly’s power to approve Federal Consolidated Fund expenditures.

The development comes as the government and the Supreme Court continue to disagree over the elections for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies.

The apex court – which will resume the hearing on the elections tomorrow (Thursday) – before Eid ul Fitr had asked the parties to sit down at the negotiating table to decide a day before the elections, but that has not happened yet .

In a meeting of the ruling allies earlier today, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said a parliamentary committee would discuss the terms of talks between the ruling alliance and Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on holding elections across the country on the same day . .

But lawmakers from the ruling alliance in their fiery speeches today refused to hold talks with the opposition under duress and expressed confidence in Prime Minister Shehbaz’s leadership.

“The settlement of political matters is best left to parliament and the political parties,” wrote the chairman of the House of Representatives.

In his letter, President Ashraf urged the Supreme Judge of the Apex Court, as well as other judges, to exercise restraint individually and collectively and to respect the legislative domain of Parliament.

“We must work together to uphold the constitution, protect democratic values ​​and ensure within our respective constitutional domains that confrontations between state organs are avoided and constitutional order is maintained,” he said.

He further wrote about conveying “deep concern and uneasiness of the elected representatives of the people of Pakistan regarding some recent Supreme Court decisions and remarks made by some honorable judges as reported in the media.”

He added that those decisions amount to a violation of two core constitutional functions of the National Assembly: legislation and purse power.

The speaker also emphasized that Article 73 of the Constitution grants the powers regarding the money law exclusively to the National Assembly, while Articles 79 through 85 grant the power and authority to approve expenditures of the Federal Consolidated Fund to the elected members of the National Assembly.

“In view of these unequivocal constitutional provisions and the division of powers and functions, I am writing to convey the deep concern and deep uneasiness of the National Assembly with the orders passed by a 3-member Supreme Court Justice, on 4/14/2023 and 4/19/2023, directing the State Bank of Pakistan and the Finance Department of the Government of Pakistan to allocate Rs. 21 billion to two of the Election Commission of Pakistan,” he wrote.

Speaker Ashraf, who is also a senior politician of the Pakistan People’s Party, added that these orders have been passed despite such release being expressly prohibited by the National Assembly.

In doing so, he said, the three-member Supreme Court bench has ignored:

(i) Resolution of the National Assembly of 06-04-2023 deciding that the decision, adopted in SMC No. 1/2023 and CPs Nos. 1 and 2 of 2023 by a majority of 4 to 3, the SMC and CPs has rejected. CP no. 05/2023 was therefore not enforceable and as such the decision of 04-04-2023 has no legal force or binding effect;

(ii) On 10-04-2023, the National Assembly refused to pass the amounts charged for General Elections (Provincial Assemblies of the Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) Bill, 2023, under which a charge was filed with the Federal Consolidated Fund for Rs21 billion, under Article 81(e) of the Constitution;

(iii) On 4/17/2023, the Permanent Committee on Finance and Revenve of the National Assembly directed the finance department to seek pre-approval from the National Assembly to prevent violation of the Constitution for these unauthorized expenditures, because the National Assembly is said to have rejected ex-post approval for Rs21 billion demand for additional subsidy as ethereal expenditure, taking into account the previous position of the National Assembly.

“It is regrettably noted that the orders of the 3-member Bench have completely ignored the constitutional process and the prerogative of the National Assembly regarding financial matters,” he wrote.

He added that the bank appeared to be in a hurry to issue unusual instructions to the federal government to approve the expenditure of Rs21 billion from the Federal Consolidated Fund and then present it to the National Assembly as a fait accompli.

The ex-post facto rejection of this amount by the lower house, which will most certainly happen, would make this authorization, albeit court-ordered, unconstitutional and will certainly lead to undesirable consequences for the federal government, the letter said.

“The National Assembly notes with deep concern that despite knowing the ramifications and consequences of such prior consent, which will be rejected by the National Assembly when submitted for ex-post facto approval, the 3-member Bench of the Supreme Court the Federal Government of ‘serious consequences’ for not approving Rs21 billion spending,’ the speaker said.

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