Negative forces will become active if elections are delayed: CJP Bandial
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Atta Bandyal on Thursday said delaying the elections would give “negative forces” an opportunity to move and “play tricks” in the country.
The chief justice’s remarks came during the hearing of a review petition filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against the Supreme Court’s decision to hold elections in Punjab on May 14.
Justice Muneeb Akhtar and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan were included in the bench hearing the application. This is the same bench which issued the directive on April 4.
Following the bench’s order, the election watchdog had informed the apex court that it could not conduct the elections due to security concerns and lack of funds.
He then filed a review petition, stating that it was not the order of the Supreme Court to fix the date for the elections.
The hearing of the revision petition began with further arguments by the ECP’s counsel, at which Chief Justice Bandyal was enraged.
“Tell us what your main point is?” he asked.
Swati replied: “Supreme Court rules cannot curtail constitutional powers.”
Noting his words, Justice Ahsan directed him to proceed.
Swati then argued that “the Full Court has held in several cases that the scope of review is not limited.” On this point, Justice Akhtar reiterated that if Azam Swati’s arguments are accepted, the rules of the Supreme Court will be nullified.
“At times, Parliament’s power to legislate is also limited,” said the ECP counsel.
Period of Interim Government
The bench then directed Swati’s attention to the role of the interim government.
The ECP lawyer said that the family members of the caretaker cabinet cannot participate in the elections.
“This ban was included in the constitution to maintain transparency in elections.”
Justice Ahsan inquired that if the provincial assembly is dissolved in 6 months, will the caretaker government remain for 4 and a half years? Will we wait for the dissolution of the National Assembly for 4 and a half years?
Azam Swati confirmed that the caretaker government will work for 4 and a half years in the respective province.
He argued that one Article cannot be violated by implementing another Article, adding that Article 254 – which states that an act is void merely because of failure to comply with its provisions in time. Not invalidated – supports 90 days delay.
He said that the delay of 90 days in the elections can be resolved.
Chief Justice Bandyal said that the solution is to bring an elected government instead of a caretaker government for 4 and a half years.
How is it possible that an elected government can stay for 6 months when there is a caretaker government? [stays in power] For 4 and a half years?” he asked.
“Where is it written in the constitution that [term of] Can the supervisory government be extended? Justice Ahsan inquired that doing so would be against the spirit of the Constitution.
Azam Swati said that the court’s observation is correct.
Role of ECP
The argument then turned to the role of the ECP and how to deal with the situation in the county after the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly in January this year.
Conducting transparent elections is the responsibility of the commission. The commission cannot say that there are no funds and therefore elections cannot be held, Justice Ahsan remarked.
He added: “Don’t think that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been neglected by us.”
During the proceedings, CJP Bandyal accused the election watchdog of “talking about politics” – a charge which Swati rejected, saying: “The Election Commission is an independent body, it is not talking about politics. “
However, he added, the commission cannot fail to ensure transparent elections.
Justice Akhtar remarked that the Election Commission had earlier cited funds and security as the reason for the failure to hold the election.
“Now you’re trying to run away. [your responsibility] Speaking of the constitution
The Chief Justice then asked how long the Judiciary – being the custodian of the Constitution – would remain silent.
How long can Article 224 be kept in cold storage? he asked, referring to the article which discusses the role of the ECP in the event of a dispute over the formation of an interim government.
Swati said that the events of May 9 confirmed the Election Commission’s concerns.
However, the chief justice once again cut him off, saying the court would discuss “principles rather than details”.
Justice Akhtar further said that general elections do not mean only National Assembly elections.
He said that there are five general elections at the same time.
Criticizing the ECP’s counsel, the bench asked why the commission had attributed the failure to hold elections to funds and security.
“Why was it not said earlier that despite having resources, elections are not possible?” Justice Akhtar inquired.
Chief Justice Bandyal then questioned that which provisions of the constitution will be invalidated by conducting elections on the same day?
He remarked that perhaps 10 years from now the system will be strengthened and all elections will be separate.
He said that at present we are traveling in darkness with no destination in sight.
Referring to the issue of Punjab elections and the reasons given by the Commission for not conducting elections in Punjab, the Chief Justice said that the Commission should not accept the excuse of the Finance Ministry.
Referring to the supplementary grants of Rs 20 billion approved for MLAs yesterday, Chief Justice Bandyal slammed the election watchdog for being “passive” and said the ECP should have “its own Need to do homework”.
The Election Commission also required 21 billion rupees. [The commission] A concrete explanation should be sought from the government. [as to the cited scarcity of funds].
He further said that the commission should have thought about its demands.
“The commission has called for 450,000 security personnel. This is the total strength of the operational force,” he said, asking what the army was required for in the polls.
Army is only a symbol of security during elections. Polling may be delayed where polling stations are sensitive.
Justice Akhtar then added that the commission’s apprehensions that the provincial assembly could influence the National Assembly elections were “baseless”.
Members of the National Assembly can also influence the provincial elections. If the National Assembly is dissolved first, will the Commission dissolve the Provincial Assembly?
“If the Election Commission is transparent and strong, there can be no interference,” the chief justice said, dismissing Swati’s arguments.
Taking another tract, Swati said that the date of October 8 was suggested keeping in mind the political situation in the country.
Election is not possible in the current situation. The events of May 9 confirmed our fears.
Justice Muneeb barred the ECP’s counsel from presenting the events of May 9, saying that ‘once again you have come to the present situation from constitutional principles’.
The hearing was adjourned till May 29 (Monday).
The election watchdog filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against its order passed on April 4, which fixed May 14 as the date for holding elections in Punjab province.
It was said that under the constitution, the authority to announce the date of general elections is vested in other bodies other than a judicial body. Therefore, the revised decree “violates the vital principle of trichotomy of powers and is thus not sustainable”.
Elections – essentially a domain of the Election Commission under Article 218 (3) of the Constitution read with other provisions of the Constitution – are the sole responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan, the ECP claimed.
Besides, the ECP had taken a stand that the general elections of the National Assembly cannot be fair in the presence of an elected government in Punjab.
“Fair elections cannot be held in the presence of an elected government in Punjab”, the revision petition said, adding that the voter/voter will vote in favor of the candidates of the political party which has an elected government in Punjab.