Supreme Court asks ECP to swiftly announce election date after consulting president
The “assurance” was given by ECP counsel during hearing of case related to general elections
ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to give date for the general elections to be held in the country today.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa asked the ECP to consult the president and announce the date of election without delay. He asked the attorney general to arrange a meeting between the ECP team and the president. He said the date would be binding on all stakeholders. He adjourned the case for a day (Friday).
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that general elections in the country would be held on Feb 11, 2024.
The “assurance” was given by the ECP counsel during hearing of a case related to holding general elections in the country in 90 days.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and including Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah heard the case. The Supreme Court Bar Association, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and others filed applications against the decision of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and delay in general elections beyond 90 days.
The ECP officials, the attorney general, PTI counsel Ali Zafar and PPP's Farooq H. Naek appeared before the court.
Barrister Zafar, in his arguments, said his only supplication was that general elections should be held in 90 days.
Chief Justice Isa told him that all his pleas on elections had become infructuous.
Barrister Zafar said he advocated for basic human rights. CJP Isa replied no-one could deny that.
Justice Minallah said nothing was important than knowing the masses’ opinion.
The CJP asked Barrister Zafar do you want elections and he replied in the affirmative. Chief Justice Isa said he believed no-one would oppose holding elections and asked the attorney general whether he would? The attorney general said “no”.
The PTI lawyer argued that Article 58 should be read with Article 224. "If there are no elections, there will be no parliament, no legislation. Announcing election date and election schedule are two different things," he added.
"The procedure to be adopted for announcing date for general elections was enunciated in the constitution; if president dissolves assembly, he will give a date for elections in 90 days," the barrister continued.
The CJP asked him whether the president would consult the prime minister for announcing a date for elections. Barrister Zafar said it's not incumbent on the president to consult the prime minister. The president is duty bound to announce a date.
Justice Minallah asked him whether the president gave a date for elections. Barrister Zafar said in his opinion the president gave the date but the ECP rejected it, saying the president had no authority to announce a date.
The CJP asked him can he show the letter written by the president. Justice Minallah said the president orders and the government had to notify it. The CJP repeated his question and Zafar read out the letter.
He submitted that the law ministry also said he president is not authorised to give a date.
Justice Minallah said why the president took so long to write to the ECP.
The CJP asked him why the president did not contact the Supreme Court. The president’s letter was ambiguous. If the president did not do it (give a date), how ha can suggest others, he added.
The CJP asked Barrister Zafar the president did not perform his constitutional duty. Assembly was dissolved on Aug 9 and the president wrote a letter [to the ECP] in September.
The constitution is clear; the president had to give a date, there is no ambiguity in it. The CJP said let those who disagree with it continue to oppose [president’s authority].
Justice Minallah said had the president announced a date the day assembly was dissolved, no-one would have objected to that.
The CJP said the state machinery is involved in holding general elections. Can the Supreme Court give a date?
Justice Minallah questioned whether the ECP ever asked the president to announce a date?
Barrister Zafar said the ECP disputed president’s authority by repeatedly saying that he (the president) has no authority (to do so). He admitted that they had to move the court for a date.
The CJP asked him can the (Supreme) Court give a date for elections by bypassing the president. Has the constitution given us (Supreme Court) authority to give a date?
The PTI lawyer said the Supreme Court has intervened in the matter. Justice Minallah said there were different circumstances.
The CJP said elections should be held in time. He addressed Zafar and said your leader is the leader of the president also. Why he did not call him to give a date?
Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan said from your arguments it seemed that the president deviated from the constitution. Justice Minallah remarked that apparently the government, the ECP and the president are responsible (for delay in elections). Now the question arises what would be the consequences (of delay in elections).
CJP Isa asked the PTI lawyer whether he was representing a political party. Call the president and ask him to give a date. Barrister Zafar replied that (how can he dictate the president) he is president of the country.
The chief justice asked Zafar do you want us to take action against the president. He remarked that the president asked (others) to move the court, but he did not come to the court himself.
Justice Minallah remarked that all, including the ECP, are responsible for the delay in elections. The constitution is being violated every day, after the delay in elections.
The CJP said the president counted days till elections. His counting was accurate, then why he did not give a date for elections. Keep in mind Article 248, also, he added.
The Chief Justice observed that the ECP said under Article 57, it is our prerogative to give a date. If the president was authorised, why didn’t he give a date. He told the lawyer that he would write this in his decision. He asked the lawyer again if his order was violated, can he issue contempt of court notice to the president?
The president would say he has exemption under Article 248, CJP Isa noted.
Justice Minallah observed that the government, the ECP or the president, would face consequences for disobeying (our order).
The CJP observed that the president would be tried under Article 6 on your arguments. Justice Minallah said Article 6 is invoked for suspending the constitution.
The Chief Justice said in his opinion the constitution has not yet violated, it could be after November 7.
We will try to complete proceedings in the case today.
On last hearing on Oct 23, the apex court had sought replies from the federal government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the delay in elections.
It may be recalled that the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) had in August sought the top court orders for the ECP to announce a date for general elections to the national and provincial assemblies as provided in Article 224(2) of the Constitution.
The SCBA petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the Aug 5 decision of the CCI. The council had in its meeting on Aug 5 approved “unanimously” the 7th Population and Housing Census results as a result of which general elections were delayed beyond 90 days.