The nine-member larger bench of the Supreme Court formed to hear the Suo Motu notice related to the By-elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab was dissolved after Four Judges refused to hear the case.
According to details Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Athar Minallah, and Justice Yahya Afridi recused themselves from hearing the case.
The hearing of the case was scheduled to start today at 11 am, however, it was delayed reportedly due to the bench formation in the light of a Supreme Court order of the February 23 hearing.
A written order was issued on the SC’s website in which dissenting notes of Justice Afridi, Justice Minallah, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had been included.
After the refusal of four judges remaining judges decided to resume the hearing.
Following this, a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Shah and Justice Mandokhail resumed the hearing.
When the hearing began, CJP Bandial shared that four judges had recused themselves from the bench.
“The rest of the court’s bench will keep on hearing the case,” said the CJP. He added that the court will continue hearing the case for the interpretation of the Constitution.
The CJP also noted that till the written order is not released on the website they cannot issue it. He noted that Justice Mandokhail’s dissenting note was shared on social media before the written order was released.
“We will be careful that this does not happen in the future,” said the CJP.
Zafar, the lawyer representing the speakers’, began his arguments and said that the Punjab chief minister sent the summary for the dissolution of the assembly to the governor.
The governor was bound to dissolve the assembly, however, he did not and the Punjab assembly was automatically dissolved after 48 hours.
The lawyer said that no constitutional officeholder can delay elections for more than 90 days, and the 90-day period in Punjab started on 14th January 2023.
On this Justice, Mandokhel asked whose job is it to decide the date for elections.
Lawyer Zafar said that a Suo Motu notice has been taken regarding a date for the elections. “Election Commission failed to respect the high court’s orders,” Zafar told the court.
“There is no such provision in the Constitution that justifies delay in the elections beyond the 90-day time limit,” remarked Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar.
Justice Mazhar remarked that the Punjab governor threw the ball in the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) court.
Meanwhile, Justice Akhtar remarked that the chief minister’s advice was implemented in KP but not in Punjab.
“If there are no assemblies then there is no other way of governance in the Constitution. This is why a 90-day limit has been set for the elections,” said Barrister Zafar.
He stressed that the elections must be held within the 90-day period.
“The Election Commission’s job is to conduct elections,” said CJP Bandial.
Zafar said that the ECP is responsible for the arrangement of polls and conducting the elections. “The ECP has to conduct national, provincial, and local polls as per the Constitution,” he added.
“The ECP is responsible to hold elections under Articles 218, 219, and 222 and all the executive institutions are bound to assist the ECP in conducting polls,” said Zafar.
He said that the court should take action if the ECP shows helplessness.
The CJP then adjourned the hearing for a recess and adjourned the hearing till 4 pm.
President announces Election Date
It is pertinent to mention here that President Dr. Arif Alvi announced April 9 as the date for holding general elections for Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assemblies. The announced the date under section 57(2) of the constitution.
The moves come after Chief Election Commission decided against attending the meeting called by President Arif Alvi to discuss the dates for holding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.