SC seeks ECP, centre, governors' reply in Punjab, KP polls delay case
A five-member larger bench of Supreme Court hears the petition
ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – The Supreme Court on Monday, while hearing PTI’s plea against delaying general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, deferred hearing of the case till Tuesday, besides issuing notices to ECP and federal government seeking their reply.
The court also sought reply from Punjab and KP governors by 11: 00 am on Tuesday.
During the proceedings, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked that whether the ECP could change date for elections given by the president. He remarked that they could not run away from realities. He said the elections could only be held in favourable circumstances. The chief justice remarked that law and constitution were made to protect the people. The CJP said that situation in the country was quite grave and everyone seems at loggerheads with each other.
He said the election must be fair, peaceful and transparent. The chief justice remarked that elections were postponed for 40 days after the former prime minister Benazir Bhuttto was assassinated.
The additional attorney general requested the court to put off hearing for two to three days as the new attorney general of Pakistan had not been appointed. However, the court rejected the request.
Earlier, a five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court began hearing PTI’s plea against delaying general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, comprises Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Muneeb Akhtar Sheikh and Justice Ameenuddin Khan. Ahead of the hearing, the court issued notices to the PTI lawyers.
In a surprise move on March 22, the ECP had put off elections for more than five months citing the deteriorating security situation in the country and the unavailability of security personnel. Barrister Syed Ali Zafar moved a petition on behalf of the PTI with a request to order the ECP to hold the elections on the date fixed earlier — April 30.
The petition, moved by PTI Secretary General Asad Umar, former Punjab Assembly speaker Mohammad Sibtain Khan, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani and ex-lawmakers of Punjab Abdul Rehman and Mian Mahmoodur Rashid, pleaded that the ECP’s decision was in violation of the Constitution and tantamount to amending and subverting it.
It sought directions for the federal government to ensure law and order, provisions of funds and security personnel as per the ECP’s need to hold the elections. It also requested the court to direct the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to announce the date for elections to the provincial assembly. Last week, KP Governor Ghulam Ali also proposed Oct 8 as the date for holding elections in the province. Earlier, he had announced May 28 as the date for polls.
The PTI questioned the ECP’s authority to “amend the Constitution” and asked how it could decide to delay elections to any assembly beyond 90 days from the date of dissolution of the assembly as mandated by the Constitution.
The petition argued that the ECP was bound to obey and implement the judgements of the Supreme Court and had no power or jurisdiction to overrule or review them.
The apex court on March 1 ordered the authorities to hold the election to the Punjab Assembly within 90 days and that the date be announced by the president. It also directed the authorities to provide funds and security personnel to the ECP for the elections. .
"The ECP cannot act in defiance of the Supreme Court’s directions as it has done in this case which is illegal and liable to be set aside," the petition pleaded. By announcing Oct 8 as the date, the ECP had delayed the elections for more than 183 days beyond the 90-day limit as prescribed in the Constitution. The petition said that if the excuse of unavailability of security personnel was accepted this time, it would set a precedent to delay any future elections.
The petition added that there was no assurance that these factors — financial constraints, security situation and unavailability of security personnel — would improve by Oct 8.