Judgment restores the Cabinet’s ‘pristine position’ at being the heart of the Executive and the Constitutional Import of collective decision-making
The Federal Cabinet under the current tenure of the PML-N led Federal Government has only met a dismal 12% of the times it should have met (Only 20 meetings as opposed to 167)
Judgment indicts the increasing trend of a Prime Ministerial form of Government, instead of a Parliamentary one, which is against the spirit of the Constitution
August 19; Hailing the Supreme Court’s judgment issued of August 18, on Civil Appeals No. 1428 of 2016, pertaining to tax exemptions for importers of cellular phones and textile goods, PILDAT has termed it as a milestone in the development of Pakistan’s democracy.
While lauding the Supreme Court’s judgment, PILDAT specifically welcomed the declaration of Rule 16 (2) of the Rules of Business of the Federal Government (giving the Prime Minister the power to bypass the Cabinet) as ultra vires.
PILDAT considers the judgment to be a critical indictment of the personalized form of governance centered around the office of the Prime Minister, which has been the hallmark of various governments of different political parties in Pakistan. PILDAT emphasized that the centrality and discretionary powers which have come to be associated with the office of the Prime Minister erroneously perpetuated a Prime Ministerial form of Government instead of a Parliamentary one, as originally envisaged by our Constitution, especially after the 18th Amendment.
An unfortunate consequence of this has been the dormancy of various official fora for consultation and decision-making. For example, the Federal Cabinet has been detrimentally sidelined in the decision-making structure under the current Government. It was only able to meet a dismal 20 times; a mere 12% of the total of 167 times it should have met till now.1 This lack of collective consultation and decision-making is not only reflected in the dormancy of the Cabinet, but also amongst the Council of Common Interest (CCI) and the National Security Committee (NSC). No meaningful consultation seems to be taking place on important governance matters within the political parties as well.
PILDAT has already maintained that as per the Article 90 and 91(6) of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Cabinet, which includes the Prime Minister and the Ministers, is collectively responsible as the Federal Government, which is to exercise the executive authority of the Federation. The judgment reaffirmed the same in its incisive manner by stating ‘the Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet but he can neither supplant nor replace it. He cannot exercise its powers by itself’.
PILDAT, in its commendation, particularly cited a section of the Judgment, which decries this Prime Ministerial form of Government as ‘simply inconceivable… and the antithesis of a constitutional democracy [which] would amount to a reversion to a monarchial form of Government’.
(1). Rule no. 20 of the Rules of Business of the Federal Government states that the ‘meeting of the Cabinet to discuss ordinary business shall normally be held once a week’.