Lahore - Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari finally returned to the assembly yesterday to solve the jigsaw puzzle inexorably created due to his absence from the house.

Punjab Assembly underwent an unusual situation on Monday last mainly because the deputy speaker was not there to chair the first sitting of the sixth session. Consequently, Mian Shafi Muhammad, one of the members of the panel of chairman, assumed the chair at the commencement of the first sitting as an interim arrangement to conduct the house proceedings.

However, the opposition raised the point of order that before announcement of panel of chairman, no member of the panel could assume the chair and the acting speaker ought to have presided the first sitting. A long debate ensued in the house which continued for over an hour.

Opposition members contended that Mian Shafi Muhammad was not authorised to assume the chair at the commencement of the sitting until a motion moved by a minister in terms of Rule 13(2) of the Rules of Procedure of Provincial Assembly for electing the chair had been approved by the house.

They had also challenged the validity of house proceedings held before adoption of the motion by the house.

In order to give a legal cover to the last three- day proceedings held under the chair of Mian Shafi Muhammad, deputy speaker on Thursday came up with a three-page ruling describing the circumstances which led to the unprecedented situation.

Mazari told the house that owing to some unavoidable circumstances, he was not available to attend the first sitting but he had informed about it to the assembly secretariat. He said he had also directed the assembly secretariat to make arrangement accordingly for the first sitting of the assembly.

Referring to the house debate regarding sub-rule (2) of Rule 13 of the Rules of Procedure, the deputy speaker viewed that the said rule refers only to a situation arising on a subsequent day of an ongoing session, when the panel of chair would have already been announced on the first day of that session.

He, however, ruled that the matter stood resolved there and then when the motion moved by the law minister was adopted by the assembly by majority and the opposition members took part in the proceedings of the house thereafter.

On the second point raised by the opposition members challenging the validity of a part of proceedings on that day, the deputy speaker observed that on the adoption of the motion, the chair, in his short ruling on the same day, had validated that part of the proceedings and he also endorsed the said short ruling.

He also gave some additional arguments to substantiate his point. Quoting Article 67 of the Constitution, Mazari said that a house could make rules for regulating its procedure and the conduct of its business and also had the power to act notwithstanding any vacancy in the membership. Under the same articles, he added, any proceedings in the house shall not be invalid on the ground that some persons who were not entitled to do so sat, voted or otherwise took part in the proceedings. He also cited Article 66 of the Constitution, under which the proceedings of the house cannot even be challenged in a court of law.

Mazari concluded his ruling by quoting rule 209 of the Rules of Procedure of Provincial Assembly which provides that the ruling of the chair shall not be called in question.

Giving background of his ruling, the deputy speaker read out loudly in the house that the sixth session of Assembly was summoned by the Governor on January 2, 2019 to commence from Monday, January 7, 2019. He stated that it was established practice that whenever a Session is summoned, Mr Speaker, in discharge of his constitutional and codal responsibilities would issue certain orders, as for instance, approval of sitting plan, fixing time and date for the meeting of business advisory committee, appointment of Panel of Chairmen, approval of security plan, etc.

He further stated that these arrangements are made prior to the commencement of the Session for the smooth conduct of the Session. He was of the view that following this prevalent practice and norms, Speaker Parvez Elahi nominated a Panel of Chairmen for this session on January 3, 2019 on the relevant file. However, the panel was to be announced by the secretary on the first sitting of this session, i.e. January 7, 2019 after the recitation and Na’at.

In the meanwhile, he continued, Ch Muhammad Sarwar, Governor of the Punjab had to proceed abroad and Mr Parvez Elahi assumed the charge of Acting Governor. Consequently, he [Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari] was notified to act as Speaker.

Mazari said that since he was not available on that day, Mian Shafi Muhammad, the first name in the order of preference, already appointed by Mr Speaker assumed the Chair at the commencement of the first sitting on January 7.