Delay in polls: SC observes ECP decision an obstruction in court orders

Speaker’s ruling is apparently against Article 95 of Constitution: Chief Justice

ISLAMABAD: Justice Munib Akhtar of the Supreme Court said on Monday that the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decisions had become an “obstruction” in the way of the apex court’s orders.

He passed these remarks as the top court took up PTI’s petition challenging the electoral body’s orders to put off Punjab Assembly elections till Oct 8.

The five-member larger bench — headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Akhtar, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail — heard the case.

In a surprise move on March 22, the ECP had put off the elections for more than five months citing the deteriorating security situation in the country and the unavailability of security personnel.

ubsequently, Barrister Syed Ali Zafar moved a petition on behalf of the PTI officials with a request to order the ECP to hold the elections on the date fixed earlier — April 30.

During the hearing today, the court issued notices to the Federation of Pakistan, ECP and the governments of Punjab and KP.

At the outset of the proceedings, Barrister Zafar told the court that the apex court, in its March 1 orders, had instructed the ECP to decide on a date for elections in Punjab and KP.

In its March 1 verdict, the Supreme Court had ordered to hold the election to the Punjab Assembly within 90 days and that the date be announced by the president. It also directed the authorities to provide funds and security personnel to ECP for the elections.

Presenting his arguments in the SC today, the PTI lawyer said: “On March 8, the ECP issued the schedule for elections in Punjab, whereas the KP governor did not announce a date for the polls.”

He contended that the electoral watchdog had thrice committed violations, explaining that the ECP had rejected the election schedule announced by the president.

Zafar further said that the electoral body has now delayed the elections till October 8, arguing that “it does not have the authority to give a new date for the polls”.

“The election commission has violated the 90-day period [for announcing the date of elections]. As per the Constitution, the ECP does not have the right to change the date [for polls] or extend the 90-day deadline,” he said, stressing that the ECP “overlooked” the court’s orders.

Here, Justice Mandokhail asked: “What do you want from court?”

To this, Barrister Zafar replied that the petitioner wanted the SC to ensure the implementation of the Constitution and its own orders.

“The execution of court orders is the responsibility of the high court,” Justice Mandokhail replied.

Meanwhile, the PTI lawyer said that if the reason for the delay in polls — as given by the ECP — was accepted, then “elections will never take place”. “The matter just does not concern to the court’s orders.

“The matter of elections in two provinces cannot be heard by on high court,” he reasoned, adding that the SC had earlier used its authority on the matter and still had jurisdiction over it.

At that, Justice Akhtar said that the ECP’s decision has become “an obstruction in the orders of the SC”.

“Only the Supreme Court can decide better whether the orders were violated or not,” the judge observed.