ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court rejected the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP)’s request to constitute a Full Court for hearing the petitions regarding the delay in holding of general elections in the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

AGP Mansoor Usman Awan while arguing many times requested the chief justice to constitute a Full Court. However, the chief justice told him that they have heard him and he keep reminding them to constitute the full bench. Justice Bandial questioned is this not the bench of the Supreme Court. He stated that the judges are busy in various SC Branch Registries and it will also affect a large number of litigants.

Justice Bandial remarked that the court had conducted proceedings into the case for three complete days and that the inclusion of new judges to the bench will further waste time. “It will take time for the new judges to understand the case,” he said.

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A four-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, on Friday, assembled for hearing of speakers Punjab and KP and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s petitions.

The chief justice told the attorney general to bring secretaries of the ministries of Finance and Defence on April 3. He asked, why the government and the other side don’t resolve the issue, themselves. “If you don’t resolve it then we will. Since Monday we have been saying to do it yourself,” he added and questioned: what is the magic in the date of October 8.

At 11:30 when the hearing started, at the outset, Justice Jamal stated he wanted to recuse from the bench. As he began expressing his view, the judges rose and went to their chambers, and thus, the four-member bench was dissolved. A day ago (Thursday) Justice Aminuddin had recused from the bench as he along with Justice Qazi Faez Isa had delivered a judgment on chief justice’s suo moto power, and the power to constitute SC benches.

At 02:00 p.m. a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar heard the PTI’s petitions.

During the proceeding, the chief justice asked the AGP when the elections can be held in the shortest minimum time. “We want you (the government) to give commitments,” adding after the commitments, the code of conduct will be framed and if that is not fulfilled then there will be repercussions of it.

The chief justice further said if you are unable to arrange the resources, then they would find a way and will call the relevant authority to arrange the resources. “We can call the armed forces.”

The attorney general earlier informed that the government is facing a deficit in public account and the capital account of Rs1.45 trillion. He said in order to receive the next tranche of an already agreed loan from the IMF introduced a money bill in the parliament aimed at raising Rs170 billion in taxes by June 2023.

Justice Munib inquired how much amount is in the consolidated funds. When the AGP was hesitant to tell the exact amount then Justice Munib said they would summon the State Bank of Pakistan governor and will inquire about the amount.

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The chief justice said that they are not economists or financial experts. However, what is the magic that the deficit will be cleared by October. The AGP replied that these figures are till June 30, adding hopefully soon Pakistan receive the next tranche and will receive the funds from other friendly countries.

Earlier, Pakistan Bar Council vice-Chairman Haroon Rashid and the Chairman Executive Committee Hassan Raza Pasha appeared before the bench. Pasha said; “The bar has nothing to do with supporting anyone.” “If not a full court bench, you can call a full court meeting,” he added.

The CJP said he was thinking about it. He said that the SC judges shared good relations. “Two judges recused themselves from the hearing today and yesterday.” Polite conversations took place between the judges both before the recusals and afterwards, he said.

The chief justice further said some political issues came up which were fuelled and fanned by the media and press conferences, but the court showed restraint throughout the matter.

Justice Bandial also said that some judges were being criticised by one side, while other judges are criticised by the other. He further stated if the matter was only related to “external image” then “our lives would have been peaceful”.

Media persons sometimes say wrong things but the court always shows restraint, he added The attorney general requested the court to reduce the temperature within it, adding everywhere in the country, the (political) temperature needed to be brought down.

The chief justice recalled that judges in the past were taken out of their offices and house arrested. “It is a miracle that they returned to the offices, but some of the best judges in the 1990s could not come back,” he added.

“Constitution is very important for us; for this nation; for this society; it holds the federation together; it keeps democracy alive; today, when you go to the Parliament you find people addressing the Parliament who were till yesterday in captivity, imprisoned, declared traitors; they are now talking over there, and being respected; because they are representatives of the people,” said the CJP.

The chief justice said no one talks about the judgments. They were not only challenging the judges, but they are talking about their wives and children.

At one stage, the chief justice became emotional and his eyes filled with tears. He said that the assemblies have five-year tenure, but the Constitution allows the Leader of the House to dissolve it before the life of the Assembly. After the dissolution, there is a 90-day period in which the election should be held. The Punjab Assembly was dissolved on 14-01-23; the elections of it should have held on April 23.

The president gave April 30 in pursuance of the SC’s judgment, adding the date for the election suggested by the president was already beyond the 90-day time period.

“The president was not briefed about the situation by the ECP. If they had done it, the president would not have given the date for April 30,” he said, pointing out that the matter in front of the court was of October 8.

“The court is not sitting here to increase problems. Either give us concrete reasons or commence a dialogue. One side (the PTI) is already giving the guarantee of its chairman. The government too will have to move on.”

The CJP further said that the tenure of the assemblies would be completed in August. “We can take a break for a few days if the government and opposition want to hold negotiations. If the negotiations don’t work out, we will fulfil our constitutional role.”

Referring to the suo motu proceedings on elections in KP and Punjab, the CJP said that while forming a nine-member bench he thought about all the judges.

“I have found Justice Athar Minallah in accordance with the Constitution. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Munib Akhtar are constitutional experts. Justice Ahsan is also a constitutional expert. “You (AGP) can ask why Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi was not included in the bench.” He said the reason for it was to “give a silent message”.

The chief justice further said that the SC judges were being “targeted” because of ongoing political issues. “All judges are being made a target based on hearsay,” he asserted. “The Supreme Court was always united, and in some ways, it still is.”

He said SC had the best judges in the last 20 years and appreciated the judgements authored by Justice Shahid Waheed, Justice Ayesha Malik, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar. “If you talk based on law, I will listen to it as a judge, but if you attack my judges, you will have to face me,” he added.

Justice Jamal’s note states; “I also wanted to express my view, however, the Chief Justice and other members of the Bench rose, therefore, I was unable to do so. Subsequently, I remained in my chamber for a reasonable time, but received no information from the Chief Justice regarding further proceedings into the matter. When I reached home later the same day, I received an Order dated 30.03.2023 from the Chief Justice for my signatures as a member of the Bench.”

“Some of us (Justice Bandial, Justice Ijaz, and Justice Munib) respectfully disagree and consider that the hearing and further proceedings in the present petition remain unaffected by any observation made in the aforesaid Order.”

Justice Jamal further wrote admittedly, the Order was not dictated in open Court; instead, it was dictated in my absence and without contacting me for participation in the deliberations. I felt that the three learned members of the Bench, for reasons best known to them, opted not to involve me in the consultation.

“Besides, this petition is the outcome of the previous proceedings which were dismissed by two members of the bench (Justice Yahya and Justice Athar) through their respective short orders, followed by myself and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.”

“On this behalf, we issued our detailed reasons on 27.03.2023. Right from the first date of hearing of the present matter, I wanted this Bench to resolve the controversy of the Order dated 01.03.2023 and its Order of the Court, which has still not been issued till date, as it is of great significance to the present matter.” He further wrote; “No heed was paid to this issue, despite my raising it repeatedly.

The learned Attorney-General, members of the legal fraternity, and learned counsel for the political parties also requested for resolution of this issue, but received no response from the other members of the Bench.”

The case was adjourned until Monday (April 3).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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John Apr 01, 2023 06:36am
Crooks & Corrupt should not be allowed to mess up with the constitution! Masses stand to protect the constitution!
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Kashif ALI Apr 01, 2023 01:01pm
What is the issue with formation of a full-court bench? The matters of such national importance must be heard and decided by the full bench? The incumbent 3-judge bench will tag itself partisan and biased if it remains rigid.
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