ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court issued notices to the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP), advocate generals of all provinces and others regarding not holding elections of the dissolved assemblies of the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
A nine-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, on Thursday, heard the suo motu and the petitions of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association and the speakers of the Punjab and KP.
The court noted that six weeks have elapsed since the dissolution of the assemblies, but the matter regarding the authority to appoint the dates for holding of elections in the Punjab and the KP is subject to interpretation. It further said that in terms of Article 224(2) the Election Commission is bound to hold elections within 90 days.
The notices were also issued to the vice-chairman Pakistan Bar Council, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), and to the President and the governors of the Punjab and KP through their principal secretaries, if they desire to share their opinion on the matter.
The court also issued notices to the federation through the secretary Cabinet Division, chief secretaries of the Punjab and the KP, and the political parties. The court had also issued a notice to the president Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), but on the AGP’s objection that the SCBA president is representing a party, the chief justice did not issue him a notice.
The chief justice on February 22 took suo motu to consider the questions; Who has the constitutional responsibility and authority for appointing the date for the holding of a general election to a Provincial Assembly, upon its dissolution in the various situations envisaged by and under the Constitution? How and when is this constitutional responsibility to be discharged?
During the proceeding, Justice Athar Minallah raised the question, whether the Assemblies were dissolved in accordance with the constitution as the Court in exercise of Article 184(3) considering the questions. He said the representatives are elected for five years.
Is this the right of a political leader or the political party regarding the dissolution of the assemblies? Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah said the Court would also need to see why the provincial assemblies were dissolved if there was no solid reason. “Can we (Court) restore the assemblies and if the assemblies are restored then the matter would be resolved.” Justice Minallah questioned whether the chief minister can act on the dictate of the political leader to dissolve the assembly.
Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel said while going through the suo motu order, “I wanted to recuse”. He said the suo motu was taken by the chief justice on the order of a two-member bench comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.
The bench was hearing the appeal of City Chief Police Officer (CCPO), Lahore, Ghulam Mahmood Dogar, adding that despite the fact the elections in Punjab and KP were not an issue before the bench but it referred the matter to the CJP to invoke the suo motu jurisdiction under Article 184(3). “It is not appropriate to refer the matter to the chief justice to take suo motu on an issue which was not before the bench.” He further said some audios were leaked. He talked about Article 10A saying in view of that the suo motu is not justified.
The chief justice assured the brother judges that their statements would be included in the order.
The apex court noted that several petitions were filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC), inter alia, seeking compliance of the constitutional obligation imposed by Article 224(2). A single bench of LHC on 10.02.2023 in Chambers concluded that the authority lay with the ECP and called upon the same “to immediately announce the date of election of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab with the Notification specifying reasons, after consultation with the Governor of Punjab, being the constitutional Head of the Province, to ensure that the elections are held not later than ninety days as per the mandate of the Constitution.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023