ECP is bound to hold elections within 90 days: CJP

Top court dismisses election commission’s review petition against its judgments on Punjab elections n Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial says the Constitution is not someone’s property n ECP has to use constitutional powers to fulfil constitutional responsibilities.


ISLAMABAD  -  The Supreme Court of Pakistan Thursday dismissed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) re­view petition against its judgments on holding general elections in the Punjab on May 14.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pa­kistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar conducted hearing of the ECP plea to revisit the SC judgment.

This bench on April 4 had quashed the ECP’s decision to extend the date for polls in the province from April 10 to October 8 and fixed May 14 as the new date.

It had also directed the govern­ment to release Rs21 billion for the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pa­khtunkhwa (KP) and provide a se­curity plan to the ECP regarding the polls. The federal and the provincial government expressed their inabil­ity to provide the funds and securi­ty for the polls in the Punjab and KP. The Commission on May 3, 11 days before the expiry of the Court dead­line (May 14) filed a review petition against the April 4 order. 

Onset of the hearing, Sajeel Swa­ti, representing the ECP, argued that after the amendments in Section 57 and 58 of the Elections Act 2017, the power now rests with the ECP. How­ever, Justice Munib told him that this is a review petition therefore do not raise points that were not raised in the original case. “Tell us from the re­cord about the error floating on the surface of the judgment,” he asked the counsel. 

Swati said that the Constitution did not give the ECP the “authority but rather the responsibility”. “The changing of the date by the president is an important legal point,” he add­ed. The CJP said that the ECP had to use constitutional pow­ers to fulfil constitutional re­sponsibilities. He said that court would intervene when­ever there was a constitution­al violation because the “Con­stitution was not someone’s property”. He added, “No insti­tution can transgress the Con­stitution and under the Con­stitution, the ECP is bound to hold elections within 90 days.”

In its plea, the ECP said changing the election pro­gramme was the solitary do­main of the commission under Section 58 of the Elections Act 2017. It asked the court to take back its April 4 judgement “in the interest of justice”, empha­sising that Article 254 should be used to stultify the constitu­tional imperative of holding the elections within 90 days, but the apex court should also look at the ground realities. The pro­vision suggested that failure to comply with requirements as to time does not render an act in­valid. “All provisions of the Con­stitution are required to be read together in harmony to make the provisions effective, work­able and meaningful,” the re­view petition argued and added the April 4 order by the SC was “per incuriam” (lack of jurisdic­tion) to the Constitution; there­fore, it needs to be revisited. The review petition explained that Punjab and KP have 173 and 55 National Assembly seats, respectively, out of a total of 326 seats, which makes the total seats for Punjab and KP about 72 per cent of the assembly’s to­tal strength. The general elec­tions to the National Assembly are due in the near future, as the assembly is completing its term in August 2023, ECP said, add­ing the commission requires government machinery which is non-partisan to conduct the general elections fairly and in accordance with the law.

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