- A top court-five member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial started hearing of the case at 11: 30 am today.
Islamabad: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial made an observation in response to a dissenting note from Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail regarding the March 1 verdict on Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa polls.
“The note was simply the judges’ opinion and was not linked to the present case,” remarked the CJP as the five-member bench resumed hearing of the petitions challenging ECP’s decision on Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections on Tuesday.
CJP Bandial is the head of the five-member larger bench that is hearing the plea, which includes Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Amin-Ud-Din Khan, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail. The PTI had challenged the ECP’s decision to postpone the Punjab polls until October 8 due to financial and security concerns.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali also urged the electoral body to hold general elections on the same date as the Punjab polls due to the growing security threats from terror groups operating from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions.
During a hearing, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial welcomed newly appointed Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan and acknowledged the importance of senior lawyer Farooq H Naek’s assistance in the matter.
The CJP emphasized that the court did not want to prolong the case and would examine the jurisdiction of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as per the previous day’s order. The ruling coalition parties’ request to join the case would be considered later.
The CJP stressed the importance of mutual tolerance, patience, and the rule of law in democracy. However, Naek argued that they were also stakeholders in the case. The CJP assured him of his importance but emphasized the need to avoid legal controversy.
The CJP noted that the parties had to decide the direction of the circumstances, while the court had to consider the facts. He said that the law empowered the president to give an election date and urged clarification on the March 1 decision through a separate petition.
The CJP considered the central question to be whether the ECP had the power to change the election date.
The attorney general argued that if the court decision was 4-3, then there was no order, and the president could not give an election date without a court order. The AGP emphasized that the March 1 decision should be decided first.
When the AGP contended that there was no order as the court’s decision was 4-3, CJP Bandial remarked that the case was not about giving an election date but the delay. He emphasized that elections were necessary for a democracy and that the two judges’ opinions did not relate to the current case. He also stated that the bench’s jurisdiction was not limited to the petition.
When the AGP appealed for the formation of a full court on the matter, Justice Mandokhail asked if the Constitution required elections to be conducted within 90 days and whether the ECP could postpone the date of the election. CJP Bandial thanked the judge for clearing the matter. Meanwhile, PTI’s lawyer Ali Zafar maintained that every institution had to work within its constitutional bounds. CJP Bandial advised the parties to avoid differences and reminded them of the country’s ongoing issues of violence, intolerance, and economic crisis.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Umar Ata Bandial, has said that the government should take the initiative to resolve the election date issue. Speaking at a hearing in the Supreme Court, the CJP said that the court would issue orders only if the government takes the initiative.
Justice Mushir Alam asked whether the 90-day period before the election could be shortened. Justice Umar Ata Bandial said that Section 58 of the Election Act does not allow the deferment of polls. However, no one is sure whether the elections can be held within 90 days.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party’s lawyer argued that the prime minister and chief minister are the elected representatives, while Justice Mandokhail suggested that Parliament should review the authority of a single person to dissolve the assembly. Elections must be held under any circumstances, said Justice Mandokhail. Barrister Ali Zafar contended that the assembly couldn’t be dissolved even in the event of a no-confidence motion.
The top court earlier resumed hearing of the case at 11: 30 am on the petitions moved by the PTI and others against the ECP for delaying elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakthunkhwa till Oct 8.
On Monday, SC two judges including Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail wrote a dissenting note.
In a 27-page note submitted for the court’s March 1st verdict in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa suo motu case, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail highlighted the need to re-evaluate the concentration of power in the hands of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (Umar Ata Bandial).
This development occurred shortly after the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), adjourning the hearing on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s petition that challenges the electoral body’s decision to postpone the Punjab Assembly elections until October 8th.
Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail of the Supreme Court expressed concerns over the concentration of power in the hands of one individual in the apex court, pointing out the drawbacks of running a “one-man show”.
They highlighted that such a system makes the institution more susceptible to the abuse of power and mistakes in the exercise of power, while promoting transparency and accountability, good governance, and a balance of power through a collegial system with checks and balances.
The judges noted that the chief justice of the court enjoys wide discretion in constituting benches and assigning cases, under the present Supreme Court Rules 1980. However, they emphasized that the court has failed to set the same standard for itself, leaving the chief justice with unfettered powers in regulating the jurisdiction under Article 184(3) and in constituting special benches after the institution of the cases, bringing severe criticism and lowering the honour and prestige of the court.
The judges also stressed that the justice system stands on public trust and confidence reposed in it, and that a “one-man show” limits diverse perspectives, concentrates power, and increases the risk of an autocratic rule, needing a revisit. Their concerns came after the Supreme Court served notice to the Election Commission of Pakistan, adjourning the hearing on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s petition against the electoral body’s orders to delay Punjab Assembly elections until October 8.