IHC maintains stay order against ECP proceedings

Alleged violation of election code of conduct

Islamabad - The Islamabad High Court on Monday maintained its stay order against the proceedings of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan for his alleged violation of the election code of conduct during the by-elections.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq conducted hearing in the matter and besides maintaining it restraining orders to the ECP to not to proceed against Imran, it also issued the notices to the ECP.

The IHC bench issued the aforementioned directions after a junior lawyer of Babar Awan informed the court about his non-availability. Later, the court deferred the hearing till May 30 for further proceedings in the matter.

Imran moved the petition through his counsel Babar Awan Advocate and challenged the ECP notifications regarding restrictions on political party heads, MNAs, and MPAs to participate in the election campaign for by-elections and consequential proceedings against him for the violation of the said notifications. He nominated ECP through its Chairman and Director General (Elections) as respondents in his petition.

The PTI chairman stated that being the head of a political party, he addresses various campaigns for by-elections throughout the country and it is his right guaranteed under Article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan regarding peaceful assembly.

He adopted that under the Constitution, no restriction could be imposed on any person except under the law and if restrictions were imposed those were just to maintain public order.

His counsel added that this restriction is only Imran specific as the treasury benches through the announcement of development projects could campaign for the same. The ECP notifications were a violation of the fundamental rights and articles 15, 16, 17 and 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Imran told the court that he and his party have a commendable record of holding peaceful and unarmed rallies, sit-ins for an unprecedented period of 126 days, which proves the fact that the petitioner and his party believe in the supremacy of law, Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 and public order.

He said that to the surprise of the petitioner, the ECP on April 16, 2015, issued notifications whereby initially restrictions were imposed on the president, the prime minister, chief ministers, state ministers, governors, and advisers to visit any area of any constituency or give any subscription or donation in such constituencies.

Later, he added that MNAs and MPAs were also included in this notification. He continued that the said notifications were challenged before a high court which declared these notifications as null and void. Then, the ECP filed appeals before the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the apex court in September 2015 passed an interim order through which operation of the high court judgment was suspended and therefore the ECP notifications were revived.

Imran said that ECP on February 6, 2017, issued notices to the present petitioner for visiting different constituencies in the province of Punjab. He contended that these notices were wholly illegal, mala-fide and without lawful authority. He argued that the petitioner is an aggrieved party because being head of a political party he could not even visit constituencies during the campaign for by-elections.

The petitioner maintained that for all practical purposes and intent, it is the opposition which is put at a disadvantage and these notifications are for the advantage of treasury benches.

Therefore, PTI chairman prayed to the court to declare the said notifications and proceedings pending against the petitioner at ECP as null and void, and illegal.