KP, Punjab Elections Suo Motu case: SC to give verdict tomorrow at 11 pm

CJP says nobody questioning the sincerity of govt but if the court takes a decision, the litigation will continue: Remarks system cannot be allowed to become paralyzed under constitution: Says there is difference between president’s discretionary and advisory powers: Says holding elections within 90 days after assemblies’ dissolution is spirit of constitution

By: News Desk
Published: 10:00 AM, 28 Feb, 2023
KP, Punjab Elections Suo Motu case: SC to give verdict tomorrow at 11 pm
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The Supreme Court's larger bench will verdict on the suo-motu case of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11 pm.

According to the 24News HD TV channel, On the resumption of the hearing, PML-N counsel informed the court that more time was required for consultations on the matter.

Mansoor Usman Awan, who is defending the PML-N in the suo motu case, informed the Supreme Court's larger bench that the PDM coalition includes Balochistan members, whereas the PML-N will have to undertake internal debates as well as speak with the PPP.

"The court procedures should be continued since more time is required for talks," he told the judge.

Meanwhile, PPP lawyer Farooq H Naek said that conversations with the PPP leadership had taken place. He said according to the PPP leadership, setting the election date is not the business of political parties.

The court had earlier deferred the hearing to 4 pm, with orders to the political parties to agree on a date.

earlier today, the Supreme Court advised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the PDM government to sit together and come up with a date for elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab by 4 pm, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

This directive came from Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial during the hearing of SC’s suo motu notice regarding a delay in the announcement of Punjab and KP elections. 

A five-judge larger bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail is hearing the case.

CJP Bandial remarked that it has not been allowed to paralyze the system under the constitution. He said: “It is compulsory to hold elections. Our priority is to follow the constitution. The hurdles can be removed after the announcement of the election date. If there is any big issue, then parties can resort to the court.” 

The CJP went on to say: “No constitutional institution could extend its tenure. Apart from the court, no one could be allowed to extend the (90-day) election period. The court could issue the order after taking into account solid reasons. Article 254 obscures the matter of poll delay but it does not issue a licence to delay the polls beyond 90 days. If elections were not held on time, then stability will not be returned. Nobody is questioning the sincerity of the government. Today, we have to look into the matter regarding the announcement of the date for the elections. If the poll date extends 90-day period, this could be challenged by someone in a court of law.” 

The chief justice of Pakistan advised the government and the PTI to sit together and come up with a date for elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab by 4 pm. He passed the directives to the lawyers to speak to respective party heads.

“Even if we take a decision [on the matter], the litigation will continue and this will be very costly for the public and political parties,” CJP Bandial added. 

During the proceedings, Chief Justice of Pakistan Bandial remarked that holding elections within 90 days after the assemblies’ dissolution was the spirit of the constitution. He said that the court would ask the attorney general of Pakistan to assist it on the constitutional points. He remarked that there was a difference between the use of discretionary and advisory powers by the president. 

Justice Munib remarked that the period of 90 days started with the dissolution of assembly. There is no reason to waste the time after the dissolution of the assembly, he added. 

Justice Mazhar remarked that whenever the governor announces the election date, there should be a 52-day margin. 

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah inquired if a caretaker chief minister could give advice to the governor regarding election date, or if the governor could reject the caretaker CM’s advice. 

Islamabad High Court Bar Association President Abid Zubairi said that the announcement of election date and caretaker’s setup is usually made together. He said that it is the jurisdiction of the governor and not that of caretaker chief minister’s to announce the poll date. 

Zubairi argued that the Supreme Court in its previous decisions had declared that the elections should be held within 90 days. 

The AGP raised an objection saying that the name of Supreme Court Bar Association president was taken out from the court order. 

Zaubairi said that the SCBA was recognized as an institution, not an individual. He said that he too, was an IHCBA lawyer and he did not belong to any political party. 

The chief justice of Pakistan remarked that what was written in the court, it was not a court order. When the judges sign it, it becomes court order, he added. 

Zubairi told the court that the president wrote letters to the Chief Election Commissioner for holding consultation on the polls. 

However, Justice Shah inquired under which law the president was writing letters to the CEC. There is no mention of the consultation in the constitution, he added.

Justice Mandokhail remarked ‘let’s suppose if constitution allows president to hold consultation, then the president is bound to act upon the advice’. 

Chief Justice of Pakistan Bandial remarked that the court would decide about the matter whether the president could hold consultation or not after hearing arguments from the other party. 

Justice Mazhar inquired if the governor was not announcing the date for holding election and the president’s position was that he was only bound to act upon the advice, then how the election would he held. 

He further inquired if the prime minister did not give advice, then was it possible that the president could use his discretionary power under the Election Act. He remarked that the parliament has empowered the president under the Election Act. 

Zubairi said that there was no need of advice to use power rested in his office. He said that elections should definitely be held within 90 days. 

The AGP contended that the president could give election date only in case of National Assembly’s dissolution or in other words the president could give date for general elections in the country. 

He said if the governor gave election date the very next day after the dissolution of the provincial assembly, then the election commission won’t agree with it. He, however, said that the elections should not go beyond 90 days after the assemblies’ dissolution. 

The attorney general said that the 90-day period was completing on April 14 and the elections for provincial assemblies were not possible before April 25. 

Justice Akhtar remarked if there is a will, there is a way. If the ECP and the concerned authorities wish, they could find a way, the judge said inquiring if it was possible to reduce the period of electioneering. 

The ECP lawyer replied that the electioneering period could be reduced to two weeks. 

Justice Akhtar remarked that it was important to follow the constitution.

On this, the AGP said if the 90-day condition was compulsory, the fate of 1988 and 2008 elections would become doubtful as they were held after the 90-day period. 

Justice Mandokhail remarked that the burning question before the court was: who would give date for the polls. He lamented had the law been lucid on this subject, we would not have been stuck here at this point. 

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Bandial remarked that it was the responsibility of the ECP to become active on the issue of elections. “It was ECP’s responsibility to consult the governors again after making complete preparations,” he added. 

The CJP said that the KP governor wanted consultations with other institutions to give date for the elections in the province. The judge asked whether the ECP held talks with the KP governor on election date. 

The ECP lawyer replied that in compliance with court orders, the commission’s officials met with the KP governor. The ECP also wrote a letter to the KP governor to remind him about the matter, but the latter did not give date for consultations and asked the commission to consult other institutions. 

The lawyer of KP governor told the court that the KP governor dissolved the provincial assembly on the advice of the chief minister. If the governor dissolves assembly, he is bound to give the poll date. The lawyer said that the ECP asked the governor to consult the provincial government by Feb 3. The ECP also discussed its difficulties in its letter, the lawyer added. 

Originally, a nine-judge bench was formed to hear the suo motu proceedings but the bench was dissolved yesterday as four of the judges including Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Syed Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Yahya Afridi recused themselves from hearing the case. 

The chief justice of Pakistan took suo motu notice of an apparent delay in the elections of the two assemblies on February 23 after President Dr Arif Alvi unilaterally announced April 9 as the election date in both provinces after his invitation for consultations on the matter was rejected by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Reporters Amanat Gishkori and Saud Butt