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.