PHC reserves judgement on plea for polls under judiciary’s supervision
PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Monday reserved its verdict about the maintainability of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s petition for holding the Feb 8 polls in the province through judicial officials under the supervision of the judiciary.
During the hearing, a bench comprising Chief Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan and Justice Shakeel Ahmad questioned if it could continue hearing the case after a Supreme Court bench suspended the Dec 13 Lahore High Court’s stay order against the appointment of district returning officers, returning officers and assistant returning officers from the executive.
The high court’s CJ said as the apex court had issued a verdict on the matter, that couldn’t be ignored.
Justice Ahmad wondered if the bench could continue hearing the PTI’s petition after the apex court’s verdict and if so, under what law that would happen.
Declares SC’s verdict on elections can’t be ignored
Petitioner Mohammad Muazzam Butt, a senior lawyer and spokesperson for the PTI, informed the bench that the Supreme Court had suspended the LHC’s judgement but didn’t say anything about the case pending with the PHC against the appointment of deputy commissioners as DROs for elections.
He also said those DCs recently issued hundreds of orders for the detention of PTI activists under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO).
Provincial advocate general Aamir Javed, additional advocate general Daniyal Khan Chamkani showed up for the provincial government, additional attorney general for Pakistan Sanaullah for the federal government, and lawyer Mohsin Kamran Siddique for the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Butt told the court that the PTI did not want any delay in polls but the appointment of ROs and DROs for them was made with mala fide intent.
“We have no issues with general elections as long as they’re held in a fair and transparent manner and according to the Constitution,” he said.
The petitioner said polls were being held on the orders of the Supreme Court, which would never want democracy to be derailed and billions of rupees go to waste.
The CJ observed that the court had received a letter about the appointment of ROs and DROs from the judiciary but it issued directions for consultation with the National Judicial Policy Making Committee, which had imposed restrictions on the judiciary’s role in elections.
He added that only the committee could allow the holding of polls through judicial officials under the supervision of the judiciary.
Additional attorney general Sanaullah told the court that orders under Section 3 of the MPO were issued by the then administrative officers as a law and order situation had developed.
He added that had those officers issued any order raising questions about the transparency of elections, the right for judicial review was still there.
The advocate general said the apex court had made it clear that it was the mandate of the Election Commission to appoint ROs and DROs for elections and that notices had been issued to advocates general of all provinces.
He added that the petition had become infructuous after the Supreme Court’s orders for Feb elections. He wondered whether the court could hear the case.
“We cannot go against the orders of the Supreme Court in any case. We have to see them,” the chief justice observed, adding that the chief election commissioner himself was monitoring the entire electoral process.
ECP lawyer Siddique informed the bench that the commission had terminated all political appointments and was monitoring all matters in the run-up to elections.
He said DROs didn’t perform their duties as members of the district administrations with their work falling in the ECP’s jurisdiction.
The counsel said the Supreme Court had suspended the Lahore High Court’s decision to suspend DROs and served a show-cause notice to the petitioner for filing the case against their appointment.
Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2023