ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Friday decided to indict the Defence Secretary on November 4 for repeatedly flouting the court orders regarding holding of Local Government (LG) elections in the cantonments.
The court on October 11, 2013 had issued contempt of court notice to Secretary Defence Lt-Gen (r) Asif Yasin Malik under Article 204 of the constitution, read with section 17 (3) of Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003, for not holding the LG polls in cantonment areas despite the commitments.
The incumbent defence secretary twice had given undertakings about holding of LG elections in the cantonments. Earlier, on July 2, he gave commitment, “Process of election in all Cantonment Boards will be completed on or before September 15, 2013.” Despite this undertaking, elections were not held on the said date.
On September 23, through attorney general, he filed another statement seeking some more time and committed that the LG polls in the cantonment areas would be held in the last week of November presenting the excuse that until then the relevant law had not been made for it.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Gulzar Ahmed, heard on Friday Raja Rab Nawaz petition regarding elections in Cantonment Board areas. The petitioner has demanded that the election should be held in the Cantonment areas of Quetta, in accordance with Local Government Act 1924.
During the proceedings, the chief justice stated: “Lt-Gen (r) Yasin Malik had twice flouted the court orders blatantly, as in spite of his undertakings the elections were not held.” It appears as if he considers himself “above the law”, he added.
Appearing on behalf of the defence secretary, Iftikhar Gilani advocate said that Mr Yasin with humility and genuinely repents his failure on this count and places himself at the benevolence of the court. He submitted that there had been genuine efforts on his (secretary’s) part but the problem was that the government has to decide about the elections and prime minister is the competent authority to approve the amended law for holding LG elections in the cantonment areas.
The chief justice remarked that anyway there was violation of the law as the petition had been pending in the count since 2009. “We would not allow anyone to flout the court orders,” the CJP said, adding the secretary has misguided the court; when he was aware that it was not in his power then why he gave the undertakings.
Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said the secretary in his statement did not say that he was not independent in making decisions in this regard or that the relevant authority did not implement the order and he would again request it. Justice Gulzar Ahmed said under the rules of business the secretary is the in-charge of his ministry. Iftikhar Gilani replied that the secretary has to move summary to the prime minister or the minister of his department for approval.
Attorney General Munir A Malik, who was acting as prosecutor general in the case, tried to save the skin of the secretary by saying the prime minister has constituted a committee for the amendment of old law. He said the committee has completed its work but the Headquarter Service has some reservation on the amended law.
But when the chief justice remarked that Mr Yasin flouted the court order despite giving undertaking, the AG said: “The undertaking given to court must be honoured and there is no exception to it.” The court observed that the process of the election has been suspended for the last 14 years or so, on one pretext or the other, from time to time by pressing into service the provision of section 14(1)(b) of the Cantonments Act, 1924. The bench adjourned the case until November 4 passing an order that the charges will be framed against the defence secretary on the next hearing.