SC adjourns hearing of ECP’s review petition regarding Punjab elections

SC adjourns hearing of ECP’s review petition regarding Punjab elections

Islamabad (Web Desk): The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday  adjourned the hearing of Election Commission of Pakistan' (ECP) petition asking the apex court to revisit its April 4 order to hold polls for the Punjab Assembly on May 14.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justices Ijazul Ahsan and Munib Akhtar heared the case.

At the outset of the hearing, the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan apprised the court that the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Bill 2023, has become a law. As per the new law, the scope of review and appeal are the same now.

The Attorney General said the review could only be heard by a larger bench and raised objections to the three-judge panel hearing the case.

Responding to AGP, CJP Bandial remarked that the situation is interesting. He added that the court understands the need for reviewing suo motu orders.

Through the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023, the government created a new “judicial jurisdiction”, the CJP noted, adding that the rulers tried intervening with the court’s administrative matters.

“But I am happy that this law [the review act] is only related to Article 184(3).”

Justice Bandial also asked the AGP if the other party in the case had been informed about the review of judgements law to which Awan said that PTI lawyer Ali Zafar was on vacation.

"We will hear this case in the presence of the other party," the CJP said.

The CJP added that whatever happened shouldn’t be "in a surprise or hidden way". "Play the role of a bridge," the top judge told the AGP.

The CJP added that “everyone” should reconsider their stance.

Justice Bandial noted that with the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, the government had created a new judicial jurisdiction and tried to “interfere in the administrative affairs of the court”.

The CJP then stated that the proceedings were being adjourned till Thursday. “We understand that a new law has been passed … the PTI will also be made aware of it,” he added.

At one point during the hearing, CJP Bandial also mentioned that the apex court would be resuming its hearing on a set of petitions moved to challenge the government-appointed judicial commission to probe audio leaks. “Take instructions from the government in this regard as well,” he told the AGP.

“You must have read our order on the audio leaks commission. Keep it in mind that the court didn’t nullify the commission,” the CJP stated.

Justice Bandial added that the court also had to protect the freedom of the judiciary. “Matters cannot be run on the basis of secret meetings,” the CJP said.

He also remarked that “it is a historical accident that there is only one chief justice”, adding that in all the previous instances a judicial commission was only formed with the assent of the CJP.

“A procedure needs to be followed when you want to investigate something.” Justice Bandial added. “I won’t form a commission which includes me, but investigations can be conducted by another judge.”

“This political temperature won’t make the economy or security [situation] any better, ” the CJP observed.

It is pertinent to mention that on April 4, the same bench ruled the ECP's decision to hold elections in Punjab on October 8 instead of April 30 was “illegal”, ordering the electoral watchdog to hold polls in Punjab on May 14.