Pakistan's Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the record of the proceedings of the National Assembly conducted on the no-confidence motion filed against Prime Minister Imran Khan before adjourning the hearing till Wednesday, prolonging the political and constitutional crisis in the country.
National Assembly deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri on Sunday ruled that the no-confidence motion was linked with a 'foreign conspiracy' to topple the government and hence was not maintainable.
Minutes later, President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on advice of Prime Minister Khan.
The apex court within hours took suo motu notice of it and a five-member bench started hearing the case on Monday.
The bench is headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and includes Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.
During the second day of the hearing on Tuesday, the court directed the government to present minutes of the proceedings in the National Assembly after the no-confidence motion was presented by the Opposition.
Chief Justice Bandial said that the court did not interfere in matters of state and foreign policy and only wanted to ascertain the constitutionality of the steps taken by the deputy speaker for the dismissal of the no-confidence motion and subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly.
"Our sole focus is on the ruling of the deputy speaker…it is our priority to decide on that particular issue," Chief Justice Bandial was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune newspaper.
The court, he added, didn't interfere in the state or foreign policy.
"We don't want to indulge in policy matters," it said.
The apex court wanted to see if the ruling of the deputy speaker could be reviewed by the bench, he said, adding that the court will merely decide on the legitimacy of the speaker's action.
"We will ask all parties to focus on this point," he added.
As the hearing resumed, Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Raza Rabbani presented his arguments.
The PPP is one of the three major Opposition parties that tabled the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Khan.
Rabbani said that the court had to examine the extent of the "immunity" of parliamentary proceedings. "Whatever has happened can only be termed as civilian martial law," he said.
He maintained that the deputy speaker's ruling was "illegal", Dawn news reported.
"The no-confidence motion can't be dismissed without voting on it," he said, citing Article 95 of the Constitution.
Rabbani also said that a deliberate attempt was made to construct a narrative against the no-trust move while a foreign conspiracy was also touted.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan said that the no-confidence motion was submitted to the National Assembly with the signatures of 152 lawmakers while 161 had voted in favour of tabling it. "After that, proceedings were adjourned till March 31."
As per the rules, the counsel for the Opposition party pointed out, a debate on the no-trust move was supposed to be conducted on March 31. "But a debate was not held," he said, adding that voting was also not conducted on April 3.
The PML-N's counsel argued that the court could judicially review the illegal and unconstitutional move.
The lawyer for Prime Minister Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party Babar Awan said he would argue before the court on Wednesday. Barrister Ali Zafar will represent President Alvi in the case. Imtiaz Qureshi said he will represent Khan.
AGP Khalid Jawed Khan informed the bench he would deliver his arguments on Thursday after the conclusion of the lawyers' arguments. He said he wanted to brief the court in detail as the case pertained to national security.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said, "Though the time is running out, the court cannot decide the case in haste."
Chief Justice Bandial, however, said the bench would try to issue an order by Wednesday.
After the arguments, the bench adjourned the hearing till 11 am (local time) on Wednesday.
Opposition lawyers during the hearing asked the court to issue at the earliest an order to settle the matter regarding the ruling.
The bench assured to come up with a verdict after hearing lawyers representing the government and the Opposition.
If Khan gets a favourable ruling, elections will take place within 90 days. If the court rules against the deputy speaker, the parliament will reconvene and hold the no-confidence vote against Khan, experts said.
Chief Justice Bandial had said on Monday that all orders and actions initiated by the prime minister and the president regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly will be subject to the court's order.
President Alvi, the Supreme Court Bar Association and all political parties have been made respondents in the case.
Chief Justice Bandial had earlier Monday said the court would issue a "reasonable order" on the issue on Monday.
The decision of the court would also determine the legality of the presidential order to dissolve the National Assembly.
Former judge Shaiq Usmani said that the court would hear all lawyers and it would be a time-taking process.
"I feel there is a lack of strategy and all lawyers of different parties want to argue but there are almost repeating the main arguments," he said, adding that the opposition parties should have appointed one main lawyer to save time.
He said since the attorney general has not yet presented his arguments, it may take another couple of days before the hearing would be concluded.