SC directs ECP to give elections' date by Friday after consultation with President

SC directs ECP to give elections' date by Friday after consultation with President

Islamabad (Web Desk): The Supreme Court (SC): on Thursday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to give the specific date for general elections by Friday after the consultation with the President.

The development comes after the ECP informed the court that the general elections will be held across the country on February 11.

ECP’s lawyer Sujeel Swati shared the date with the top court during the hearing of petitions calling for timely polls across the country.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faiz Isa and comprising Justice Athar Minullah and Justice Aminuddin Khan heard the case related to the holding of elections in 90 days. 

The court instructed the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) to arrange the meeting of ECP officials with the President on the same day.

During the hearing, the lawyer of the election body informed the bench that the ECP has decided in the meeting that the general elections will be held on February 11, 2024.

Sujeel Swati said that the delimitation of constituencies will be completed by November 30 and after that the elections will be held in February 2024. 

The CJ asked the lawyer whether the ECP has consulted the President to give the date? He remarked that the electoral body should consult the President today.

ECP lawyer maintained the stance that it is the authority of the Election Commission to give the election date after the amendment of the law.

 On this, Justice Athar Minullah said, "You don't understand! Why the ECP wants to take the entire burden of the constitutional violation on itself?"

The CJP Isa remarked that the ECP should consult the President today.

"Both the President and the Chief Election Commissioner are Pakistanis, why can't they meet?," the CJP remarked.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) lawyer Ali Zafar and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawyer Farooq H. Naik were of the opinion that the President has the authority to give the date of the general elections.

Farooq Naik said he disagrees with Ali Zafar to the extent that since the President did not give a date, Article 224 of the Constitution, which states that elections should be held within 90 days, could not be implemented, so the President has committed a violation of the constitution.

Later ,the bench announced a break till 2:15pm.

As the hearing resumed, the ECP lawyer informed the bench that the commission would consult the president on the elections as soon as possible.

Sujeel Swati said that the ECP is ready to hold consultations with the president without getting involved in a constitutional debate.

CJP Isa, then writing the court orders, directed the Attorney General For Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan to make arrangements for the ECP's meeting with the president.

The order said that the court expects that Election Commission and the president will agree on a date and inform the court.

“Court hopes that all problems will be resolved after meeting with president.

"Supreme Court will be briefed tomorrow (Friday) after meeting with president,” said the court.

It added that president and whoever is present in the meeting will have to sign the document.

The court also directed that the president be given the orders of the court for today and October 23 hearing.

“In case of any problems the court will be present,” the SC order said.

In the previous hearing, the top court had issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the federal government for their input on polls within 90 days.

In his remarks the CJP had said that there were no two opinions that "all of us want elections, but a wrong impression is being created that we are not interested".

The top court had issued notices to the government of Pakistan and the ECP, which has ruled out polls this year citing the need for fresh delimitation of constituencies given the approval of the 2023 digital census. 

Later, the ECP stated that polls would be held in January 2024 but did not announce a final date. The bench had noted that they could fix the date for polls within 10 days.

It is pertinent to mention that the petitioners in the case challenged the August 7 notification issued by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) besides amendments to Section 57 of the Elections Act, which empower the chief election commissioner to announce the date for polls.

The petitioners had moved the court to direct the relevant authorities to hold polls within 90 days as mandated under Article 224.

The National Assembly (NA) was dissolved on August 9, 2023, three days short of completing its constitutional term of five years. Article 224 of the Constitution of Pakistan stipulates that elections be held within 90 days of the dissolution of assembly, which in this case would have meant general elections in November 2023.

However, under Section 17 of the Elections Act, the ECP is bound to delimit constituencies after the official publication of each fresh census.