ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Wednesday deferred the hearing in Imran Khan and Asad Umar’s petition challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) notice against them for allegedly violating the election code of conduct by them by attending a public gathering in Lower Dir while holding public office.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq conducted hearing of the petition moved by Imran and Asad challenging the ECP’s notices against them for attending a public gathering in Lower Dir.

In this matter, the IHC bench had previously restrained the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from taking action against the then Prime Minister Imran Khan and the then Federal Minister Asad Umar for allegedly violating the election code of conduct by attending a public gathering in Lower Dir. The bench had observed that the Commission could issue notices over a breach of law but could not impose fine or disqualify candidates.

During the hearing, the associate lawyer of Imran and Asad appeared before the court and sought adjournment due to non-availability of the counsels representing Imran and Asad.

Accepting the plea, the IHC bench adjourned the hearing in this matter till July 21 for further proceedings.

It was March 11 when the ECP had issued notices to the Prime Minister and several other PTI leaders for attending a public gathering in Lower Dir. Both the petitioners moved the IHC against the notices and prayed to the court to nullify the same.

Previously, petitioners’ counsel Barrister Ali Zafar informed the IHC bench that on February 19, Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2022 had been promulgated that allowed public officeholders to partake in election campaigns.

In their petition moved through Ali Zafar Advocate, they raised different questions of law involved in this case including whether the ECP can amend and nullify the provisions of Elections Act, 2017 by issuing a code of conduct of elections, whether in case of conflict, the provisions of the Elections Act, 2017, overrule any provisions of the code of conduct, whether the Commission has power to legislate under the Constitution, whether the Commission has power to declare a provision of Elections Act, 2017 as ultra vires and void of the Constitution and whether the Commission is hound by the law namely the Elections Act 2017 and require to follow it in letter and spirit?

The petitioners adopted that under the Constitution and the law, the Commission has no jurisdiction or authority or power to declare Section 181-A to be ultra vires the Constitution, illegal, void or of no effect. They stated that in the order dated 10/03/2022, the ECP stepped into the shoes of the legislature and considered itself as a supra constitutional legislative forum which can, on its own, decide to supersede and ignore law by passing a Code of Conduct.

They added that it is respectfully submitted that the order dated 10/03/2022 is liable to be declared unlawful and illegal.

He added, “The revised clause 16 in the Code of Conduct in fact is in clear violation of and contrary to Section 181- A and hence, ultra vires. No reliance can hence be placed on the revised code of conduct. The order of the Commission dated 10/03/2022 in which the code of conduct was revised, the revised code of conduct itself and the notices based on the same are hence ultra vires the Elections Act, 2017 and are liable to be declared as such.

Therefore, he prayed to the court that the order dated 10/03/2022 of the Commission, the amended clause 16 of the code of conduct issued in the purported exercise of the powers under Section 233 of the Elections Act 2017 and the notices dated 11/03/2022 may kindly be declared to be illegal, unlawful, void and ultra vires of the Constitution. He also prayed that during the pendency of this petition, the said order of the Commission, the amended clause 16 of the code of conduct and the notices may be suspended in the interest of justice.