SC restores ECP's order, deprives PTI of ‘bat’ symbol

SC restores ECP's order, deprives PTI of ‘bat’ symbol

Islamabad (Web Desk): The Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday set aside the Peshawar High Court's (PHC) order and upheld the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) decision, depriving the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of its iconic electoral symbol of ‘bat’.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali heard the ECP’s appeal.

The court in its decision declared that the PTI was not entitled to retain the symbol of ‘bat’ as it could not prove the holding of intra-party elections.

The proceedings of the case were broadcast live on the apex court’s website.

Earlier, the court reserved the verdict.

After hearing arguments from the counsels of both the PTI and the ECP, the CJP remarked that he will consult his co-judges before coming up with observations.

“Both sides argued the case well. We will have a discussion. Let’s see what we come up with; can’t say anything yet,” Justice Faez Isa added before the bench took a break.

Earlier today, the top court resumed the hearing of ECP’s petition against the PHC order of January 10 that reinstated PTI’s electoral symbol.

PTI lawyer’s Hamid Khan Ali Zafar and the party's chief election commissioner Niazullah Niazi and party chairman Barrister Gohar were also present in the courtroom.

At the outset of the hearing today, CJP Faez Isa said that the PHC has issued its detailed order.

PTI's counsel Hamid Khan took the rostrum and said that he would try to wrap up his arguments soon as today was the last day to submit party tickets to ECP. 

The CJP agreed that the court also has less time as the order needs to be issued, hinting that the verdict would be announced today.

Justice Mazhar then posed two questions, whether the ECP has the authority to investigate intra-party polls and whether the apex court has jurisdiction.

PTI's lawyer Ali Zafar stated that the electoral body does not have the right to review a party's intra-party polls under the Elections Act 2017 or the Constitution.

He maintained that the ECP had "discriminated" against PTI and added that none of the party's members had challenged the intra-party election and reiterated that those challenging were not party members.

Zafar added that the commission had not mentioned any irregularity in its Dec 22 order and the reasons given were "strange".

CJP Isa asked the lawyer to provide context to the court for the allegations against ECP and to keep the "arguments legal".

Justice Isa remarked that the party's constitution stated that the "chairman shall be elected every two years while others every three years. Violation of the party constitution is proved to this extent".

The top judge observed that the PTI was served a notice by ECP when the party was in the government. Justice Mazhar asked whether the party had followed the election schedule it issued and were the intra-party polls transparent.

"You ask for a level-playing field but would also have to give the same to party members."

Justice Mazhar remarked that irregularities pointed out by the ECP are from PTI's constitution itself, to which the party's counsel said that the ECP has not identified any concerning election schedule and venue.

The CJP then said the matter is whether the inter-party polls were conducted or not.

The PTI lawyer reiterated that the ECP did not have the authority to scrutinise inter-party elections, however, the CJP said the counsel had himself stated that the electoral body could impose a fine for not properly holding polls but is arguing simultaneously that the ECP does not have authority.

The bench further questioned the manner in which the polls were held and questioned the lack of evidence for arguments presented in court.

On January 10, the PHC restored the PTI’s “bat” symbol, declaring the ECP’s decision regarding the PTI’s intra-party election null and void.

A two-member PHC bench comprising Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Arshad Ali announced the verdict on PTI’s petition challenging the ECP’s decision declaring the intra-party election as null and void and revoking party’s electoral symbol “bat”.

On Thursday, the ECP approached the top court and field a petition for leave to appeal under Article 185(3) of the Constitution against the PHC short order.