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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Monday, questioned the authority of the electoral body to initiate contempt proceedings against party Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan, party leader Asad Umar and former party leader Fawad Chaudhry—as the poll body reserved its verdict in the case—to be announced on this month’s 20th.

In the hearing of the case, defence lawyer and former attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan argued that the party to which the contempt was directed at, was not legally entitled to hear the case.

The ECP bench members responded that Elections Act 2017 and related rules empowered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to initiate proceedings against its contempt.

The bench questioned if the Elections Act 2017 was a specific or general law.

The defence lawyer responded that it was a specific law but the provisions related to contempt were general.

He said that the ECP, not being a court of law, had no powers to form larger benches to hear contempt cases.

Another defence counsel Faisal Chaudhry stated that the contempt notices in this case were issued by the secretary ECP. Therefore, he said, the secretary ECP could not be part of this case.

After detailed arguments, the bench reserved the verdict, indicating that it would be announced on June 20.

A four-member ECP bench comprising of Nisar Ahmed Durrani, Shah Muhammad Jatoi, Babar Hassan Bharwana and Justice ® Ikramullah Khan heard the case.

Last month, the ECP bench warned that non-bailable arrest warrants of Khan, Umar and Chaudhry would be issued if they did not appear in person before the bench on June 5.

On August 19, last year, the ECP issued contempt notices to the three politicians for their strong public criticism of the ECP and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja on different occasions. The case is pending since then.

On October 26, last year, the ECP amended the election rules to authorise its officers to issue contempt notices to the alleged “contemnors.”

The electoral entity, by amending the rules, also empowered itself to grant bail to persons arrested on the charges of the ECP contempt. The ECP made these amendments in exercise of its powers under Section 239 of Elections Act 239, according to a notification issued then.

The electoral body amended Section 4(6) of the Election Rules 2017. This section deals with procedure related to the contempt of the ECP.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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