SC directs govt to ensure elections on Feb 8 as ECP submits polls date notification

SC directs govt to ensure elections on Feb 8 as ECP submits polls date notification

Islamabad (Web Desk): The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday directed the government to ensure the holding of general elections on February 8.

The development comes a day after President Arif Alvi and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) unanimously agreed on the aforementioned date during a meeting held at the President's House.

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  SC in its order, mentioned that the notification of the general election date has also been issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), stating that no party has any objection to holding elections on February 8.

 The CJP asked everyone in the courtroom as well as the Attorney-General for Pakistan, Mansoor Usman Awan (AGP), if they had any objection to the election date, all replied in the negative.

"After all the requirements are fulfilled, the Election Commission should announce the election schedule," CJP Isa said.

Justice Isa said: "Elections will definitely be held on February 8, God willing."

After dictating the order, the CJP said that the media would be guilty of violating the Constitution if it created doubts about the elections.

“If a channel runs a ticker casting doubts on the conduct of elections, then there will be action," Justice Isa said, adding that the ECP will file a complaint to the regulatory body if any media house creates confusion regarding polls.

Earlier, AGP Mansoor Awan told the court that the president had given the date following his meeting with CEC Raja and a notification in this regard has also been issued.

“If everyone is happy, then we have no objection. The Election Commission and all the parties have agreed,” the CJP said, adding that all the members unanimously agreed to the date but did not refer to any constitutional provision.

In the order, CJP Faez Isa also inserted Article 48 Clause 5 and Section 57 (1) of the Election Act.
The apex court mentioned that the ECP did not respond to the president's letter.

“Every institution including the ECP and the president is bound to implement the Constitution.

There are severe consequences for not following the Constitution,” the order read.

The top court said that the issue of elections was to be resolved between the president and the ECP, which was unnecessarily brought to the Supreme Court.

“If the president needed advice, he could have approached the Supreme Court under Article 187. Several petitions were filed that’s why the court heard the case,” it added.

The order read that the SC is fully aware of the constitutional limitations, but mentioned that the entire country was worried because elections were not being announced.

The apex court said it has not interfered with the powers of constitutional institutions like the ECP or the president.

The court order said that every constitutional institution must abide by the Constitution as constitutional body has the option to deviate from the Constitution.

"The court has only played the role of a facilitator between the president and the commission," it added.

In its order, the top court also declared that the president and the ECP must remain in their jurisdictions. “Being the highest constitutional post, the responsibility of the president is greater,” the SC stated, adding that no institution can claim to be ignorant of the Constitution.

Every constitutional violation, the order stated, has serious effects not only on the people of Pakistan but also on the region. “Courts have also been entangled in unnecessary matters.”
Referring to the ouster of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, the court highlighted the significance of the Constitution.

It said that a prime minister was removed by a no-confidence motion in the recent past. “The Constitution is clear that the majority of the members of the assembly can pass the motion of no confidence.”

The order read that a political crisis arose in the country after the no-confidence motion after which the SC took its notice.

“The president dissolved the National Assembly after the no trust was tabled, which was an unconstitutional act,” the order, highlighting that the president cannot do so on the instructions of the prime minister.

“People cannot be kept away from elected representatives,” the court order mentioned.

The top court stated that dissolving the assembly unconstitutionally falls under the category of treason. Constitutional institutions can make important decisions only in the interest of the people.

It expressed hope that all constitutional institutions will show prudence in the future.
The order mentioned that the president did not have the power to dissolve the assembly but he did, while he did not exercise his power to appoint a date for election.

Furthermore, the CJP asked the ECP counsel if the electoral authority had issued an election programme.

The lawyer replied that the election programme will be announced after the delimitation of constituencies is done.

He added that the delimitation process will be completed on November 30, while the programme will be announced in the first week of December.

CJP Faez Isa said that the date of the election schedule should be issued for people to stay updated.

Earlier, at the outset of today's hearing AGP Mansoor Usman Awan submitted the electoral body’s election notification, dated November 3 court and issued under Section 217 of the Elections Act.

After the AGP read out the ECP notification in court, the top judge asked if everyone was happy now. “All the respondents have given their approval,” he noted.

The AGP Awan earlier in the day had presented CEC Raja’s letter regarding the election date before the bench along with the minutes of his meeting with the president.

The CJP had pointed out that Alvi’s signatures were missing from the record presented in court and directed Awan to get documents with the president’s signatures.

The ECP had earlier ruled out elections citing the need for fresh delimitation of constituencies.

Since the National Assembly was dissolved three days before the end of its constitutional term, Article 224 of the Constitution mandates that elections be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assembly by November 7. But at the same time, Section 17(2) of the Elections Act states that “the commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.”

Last month, the commission announced that elections would be held in January 2024 but stopped short of announcing a date, drawing criticism from a number of activists and political parties.

Subsequently, petitions were filed in the SC seeking timely polls. The pleas included one moved by the PTI, which had been returned on September 15 with objections. Another one had been filed by the SCBA in August, which sought directives to the ECP to announce polls within the 90-day time period mandated by the Constitution.