ISLAMABAD, (MANEND NEWS): Supreme Court’s Justice Munib Akhtar remarked on Tuesday that accepting the review petition filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking to revisit its April 4 ruling for elections in Punjab would create more complications.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar heard the case.
At the outset of the hearing, ECP lawyer Sajeel Swati told the bench that the federal and Punjab governments had submitted their response but he had just received their copies. CJP Bandial remarked that the PTI might not have submitted its reply.
The ECP counsel pleaded the court to grant him time to review the replies submitted by the government. The chief justice asked him to submit arguments regarding his review petition as the court could raise a new point if it was needed.
Subsequently, Swati presented his arguments, contending the jurisdiction of ECP’s review petition was not limited to constitutional cases. He added that powers of the apex court could be increased but not reduced. He added the jurisdiction of the top court was limited to civil and criminal cases when it comes to cases related to reviews.
At this, Justice Ahsan remarked that the cases related to fundamental rights were treated as civilian. However, the ECP lawyer argued that the proceedings carried out under Article 184(3) could not regarded as a civilian case. The judge replied Article 184(3) was related to both public interest and fundamental rights.
At one point, Justice Munib inquired if it would be a civilian case if the elections case came to the Supreme Court from the high court. At which, Mr Swati argued that the high court had greater constitutional authority than the top court.
When Justice Munib Akhtar asked whether a review under 184(3) should be regarded as an appeal, the ECP lawyer replied in the affirmative, adding that the scope of review under Article 184 (3) was not limited.
Justice Ahsan responded that the constitution differentiated between the scope of the right to appeal and review.
Justice Munib remarked that accepting the ECP’s review petition would increase complications.
When the ECP lawyer insisted on right to appeal, the chief justice intervened and remarked the Article 184(3) of the Constitution did not give the right to appeal.
The ECP lawyer then asked the court to issue a detailed order in order to make things easier. Later, the hearing was adjourned till 12pm tomorrow (Wednesday).
PTI Submits Reply
During the hearing, the PTI submitted its reply and pleaded the apex court to reject the review petition filed by the electoral body. It argued that the commission had raised new points in its review petition whereas it was not allowed in it.
It maintained that the apex court had not given a date for elections in Punjab as it had only fixed 90 deadline, adding that President Arif Alvi had given April 30 as date for elections but it was changed by the ECP.
The PTI said the apex court invalidated the ECP decision on April 30, adding that the SC had authority to review the functions of the electoral body.
During May 15’s hearing, Barrister Ali Zafar requested the court to have an order implemented as the May 14 deadline had passed and “constitution is no more”. He said the caretaker government was no more legal. Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said the court would definitely have its order implemented.
The chief justice told the government representative that election was supposed to held within 90 days of the dissolution of assembly and 90 days meant 90 days. He said the Election Commission of Pakistan had opened a Pandora’s box. Earlier, it committed that it would hold the elections if resources were provided to it. He said the court would give a verdict in line with the constitution.
He expressed hope that talks between the coalition government and the PTI could lead to a positive result. He said the electoral watchdog had raised the issue of funds and security previously but now it had raised a question about court’s jurisdiction. He said the court would hear the parties in the case.
PTI lawyer Ali Zafar contended that the scope of a review petition was limited. “New points can’t be raised in a review petition,” he said while calling on the government to issue directives for the implementation of the court order.
The CJP said the court wanted to hear the ECP’s arguments on the maintainability of the petition. He said the notices would also be issued to the provincial governments to hear their respective positions and other political parties.
As he asked the attorney general about negotiations, the PTI’s lawyer said two members of the party’s negotiating team had been arrested. The AGP said the government had taken the matter of holding negotiations seriously. He alleged that the PTI had ended the talks between the two sides.
The top court on April 4, had ordered to hold Punjab provincial assembly election on May 14. It had also directed the federal government to provide Rs21 billion for the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by April 10 and make available all the necessary personnel, whether from the Armed Forces, Rangers, or the Frontier Constabulary for the security and other purposes related to the general elections.
The court also ordered the electoral watchdog to present a report on the provision of funds on April 11. It came as Imran Khan-led party had filed the petition regarding delay in elections after the ECP on March 22 put off the polls till Oct 8, citing financial and security constraints.
Later, the federal government, in response, took the matter to the parliament to get the funding approved. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented the election expenses bill in the National Assembly.
The ECP, on April 11, apprised the SC in a report that the government had not provided funds to the commission for holding elections in Punjab.
According to the Election Commission, the government had not yet provided Rs21bn despite the SC’s order and the Punjab caretaker government had agreed to provide only 75,000 personnel for security. “There is a shortage of 300,000 security personnel for the elections in Punjab,” the ECP noted.
Upon this, the court issued notices to top officials including Attorney General Mansoor Awan, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Jameel Ahmad, Secretary of the Finance Department, and Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over failing to provide funds for upcoming Punjab elections.
Later, the PTI and the PDM-led government sat on the negotiating table, starting on April 27, to talk through elections but it culminated in consensus on holding elections simultaneously across the country with an impasse on the date during its third and last round on May 2.
On May 3, the ECP approached the court seeking review of its order to hold polls on May 14. Three days later, CJP Bandial said the apex court would proceed in line with the constitution and would not sit idle on the May 14 election issue if the dialogue between the government and the PTI failed.