Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial remarked that Negative forces get active when polls are delayed,”
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial said that a delay in elections will allow “negative forces” to swing into action in the country and will “begin to play tricks”.
The CJP’s remarks came while hearing the review petition filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against the apex court’s decision to conduct polls in Punjab on 14th May.
The three member bench that heard the plea included Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan; this is the same bench that issued the directive on 4th April.
In today’s hearing, the ECP lawyer Sajeel Swati said Top Court’s rules could not reduce the Constitutional authority.
At this, Justice Ijazul Ahsan inquired how the rules undermined the Constitutional authority. “The top court in various cases had declared that the scope of the review could not be limited,” Swati replied.
Mr Swati said the existence of the caretaker setup was a must for holding elections, adding that the Constitution provided a procedure for the appointment of interim governments.
Justice Ahsan then inquired: “If a provincial assembly is dissolved in six months, will the caretaker government remain for 4 and a half years? Will we wait for the dissolution of the National Assembly for 4 and a half years?”
Swati confirmed, saying that the caretaker government would work in the respective province for 4 and a half years.
He argued that one article cannot be violated while implementing another, adding that Article 254 — which says that an act in not rendered invalid merely because of failure to comply with its time stipulation — lends support to a delay of 90 days.
“A 90-day delay in elections can be redressed,” he said.
“How is it possible that the elected government remain for 6 months while a caretaker government [stays in power] for 4 and a half years?” he asked.
“A caretaker government is set up to conduct elections in 90 days,” Justice Ahsan said.
“Where is it written in the Constitution that the [term of] a caretaker government can be extended?”
He said that doing so would be against the spirit of the Constitution.
Swati submitted that the court’s observation was correct.
Justice Akhtar further added: “Don’t think that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been sidelined by us.”
Moreover, CJP Bandial accused the electoral watchdog of “talking about politics” — an allegation that Swati rejected saying: “The Election Commission is an independent body, it is not talking about politics.”
However, he added, the Commission cannot fail to ensure transparent elections.
The CJP then asked how long the judiciary — being the guardian of the constitution — was expected to remain silent.
The CJP remarked that negative powers got active in the country when elections are delayed. “How long the democracy will be sacrificed by postponing the polls,” he said.
“How long can Article 224 be kept in cold storage?” he asked, referring to the Article that discusses the ECP’s role in case of dispute over setting up an interim government.
“The events of May 9 confirmed the fears of the Election Commission,” Swati said.
However, the CJP once more cut him off, saying that the court would talk about “principles not concerns”.
Justice Akhtar further added that “general elections” do not mean only National Assembly elections.
“Five general elections are held simultaneously in elections,” he said. Turning to the issue of the Punjab polls the CJP said that the Commission should not accept the excuse of the Ministry of Finance.
Citing the supplementary grants of Rs20 billion approved for members of the assembly yesterday, CJP Bandial came down hard on the electoral watchdog for being “inactive” and said that the ECP “needed to do its homework” before coming to the courts.
“The Election Commission also needed Rs21 billion. [The commission] should get a concrete explanation from the government [as to the cited scarcity of funds].
He further said that the Commission should have thought about its demands.
“The Commission asked for 450,000 security personnel. That is the total strength of the operational force,” he said, asking what the need of the army in the elections was.
“Army is only a symbol for security, during elections. Polling may be delayed where polling stations are sensitive.”
Justice Akhtar then added that the Commission’s concerns that a provincial assembly may influence the elections of the NA were “unfounded”.
“Members of the National Assembly can also influence the provincial elections. If the National Assembly is dissolved first, will the commission dissolve the provincial assembly?”
“If the Election Commission is transparent and strong, there can be no interference,” the CJP said, shutting down Swati’s arguments. Swati said that the date of October 8 was suggested keeping the country’s political situation in mind.
“Elections are not possible in the current situation…. The events of May 9 confirmed our fears.”
“You have again come to the current situation from constitutional principles,” Justice Munib said, prohibiting the ECP counsel from bringing up events of May 9.
The hearing was adjourned till May 29 (Monday).
In the 14-page petition, the ECP had asked the apex court to review its decision as the judiciary “doesn’t have the authority to give the date of elections”.
“Such powers exist elsewhere under the Constitution but certainly not lie in a Court of law,” the ECP had said, citing various legalities and reasons behind its statement.
The electoral body reiterated that the appointing of the date for the election is “not the mandate of superior courts under the Constitution.”
The ECP emphasized that the Supreme Court’s intervention was necessitated to correct an error that had effectively changed the settled constitutional jurisprudence of the country. The electoral body accused the apex court of overstepping its boundaries and assuming powers that do not lie in a court of law.
Remember that, Supreme Court (SC) on in its ver4th April verdict declares the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) 22nd March order to postpone Elections in Punjab null and void ordering to hold poll by 14th of May.
A three-member bench heading by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar — announced the reserved verdict on the PTI’s petition challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan’s order postponing the elections in Punjab and KP.
The Supreme Court declared the ECP’s order postponing the provincial assembly elections until October 8 as “unconstitutional” and ordered the government to release Rs21 billion funds for elections in Punjab by April 10.
The top court also directed to conduct Punjab polls on May 14. The SC further directed the caretaker government in Punjab to assist the commission.
Supreme Court also directed Pak Army to provide security for the upcoming elections and also orders to ECP to hold elections.
However, the National Assembly later passed a resolution rejecting the three-member Supreme Court bench’s verdict on the Punjab polls, stating that it would not provide funds to the ECP for polls.