ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday partially accepted an Intra Court Appeal (ICA) of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) by setting aside a single bench’s judgment to the extent of the direction to the ECP “to decide the pending complaint within period of thirty (30) days.”

A division bench of the IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Babar Sattar conducted hearing of the PTI’s ICA while it disposed of its petition of same nature with the expectation that the Commission will complete the pending proceedings against other political parties within a reasonable time and in a fair, just and transparent manner.

The IHC bench said in its written order that it would not be appropriate for this court to give a direction to the ECP on the basis of unsubstantiated apprehensions.

The court observed, “We are, therefore, satisfied that at this stage, neither an adverse order has been passed by the Commission nor it is likely to be passed in derogation of the procedure prescribed under rule 6 of the Rules of 2002. We have not been able to persuade ourselves that the Appellant has been prejudiced in any manner.”

“In the light of the assurance given by the representative of the ECP, we have no reason to doubt that all political parties will be extended equal treatment and that their cases would be concluded with due diligence and within a reasonable time,” said the bench.

It added that for the above reasons, the court partially allows the appeal by setting aside the judgment, dated 01-04-2022, to the extent of the direction “to decide the pending complaint within period of thirty (30) days”.

In this matter, the PTI filed the Intra Court Appeal assailing judgment of IHC single bench, dated 01-04-2022, whereby Writ Petition No 958/2022 was dismissed. It had also filed an application before the Election Commission of Pakistan and it was prayed therein that Akbar Sher Babar be restrained from participating in the pending proceedings. The application was dismissed by the Commission vide order, dated 15-03-2022. The connected constitutional petition was filed by the Additional Secretary General of PTI wherein a direction was sought against the Commission to cause the State Bank of Pakistan to locate the accounts of all the political parties. A further direction was also sought restraining the Commission from causing discrimination and to proceed against all the political parties on day to day basis.

The bench noted in its order that the representative of the Commission informed the court that the proceedings against the Appellant and other political parties have been initiated under the Political Parties Order, 2002 and the Political Parties Rules, 2002. He further informed that the proceedings against the Appellant are pending since 2014 while those against other political parties were initiated later. He unequivocally stated before the bench that information has been sought from the State Bank of Pakistan regarding other three political parties and that their cases are expected to be scrutinised and the process completed within a reasonable time.

Court directs ECP to decide pending complaint within a period of 30 days

He said that in case of the appellant, the scrutiny committee, after concluding its proceedings, has submitted its report. He informed that at this stage the Commission is considering the said report and the Commission has yet to consider whether a case is made out for issuance of a show cause notice contemplated under rule 6 of the Rules of 2002.

The court observed that in a nutshell, the appellant has raised objections regarding participation of the respondent in the pending proceedings before the Commission and the manner in which its case has been dealt with.

The bench noted that the Commission is a creation of the Constitution and it is empowered to regulate its own proceedings. A division bench of this court in the case titled “Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf v. Election Commission of Pakistan & another” (ICA No 348/2018) vide order, dated 04-12-2019, has held that the proceedings before the Commission are inquisitorial in nature and not adversarial.

It further said that a plain reading of the Order of 2002 as a whole affirms that the proceedings thereunder are not of adversarial nature. “The status of the Respondent, Akbar Sher Babar, is thus no more than an informer. The latter, therefore, cannot assert a right to be treated as if the dispute is of an adversarial nature. Nonetheless, the Commission is empowered to regulate its own proceedings and while doing so, it is expected that the proceedings against all the political parties, including the Appellant, will be completed with due diligence,” maintained the court.

The representative of the Commission unequivocally stated before the court that the cases of all the political parties are being dealt with in a fair and transparent manner and there is nothing on record to indicate that the appellant has been treated differently.