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Govt to amend contempt of court law to avoid legal trouble

ISLAMABAD: The federal government is preparing to introduce amendments in defiance of court law in an attempt to avoid Supreme Court (SC) orders directing it to provide Rs21 billion in funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

According to sources, the government intends to amend Article 204 of the Constitution, which allows the court to “punish any person who abuses, interferes with, or obstructs the Court’s process in any way or disobeys any order.”

The government decided to bring amendments in violation of court law to avoid ‘any legal trouble’ after the Supreme Court (SC) directed it to provide Rs21 billion in funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for Punjab elections by April 10 sources say.

The Contempt of Court Bill will be approved by Parliament, according to sources citing law ministry officials, who added that the provision of contempt law can be removed from the Constitution with a two-thirds majority.

Earlier in the day, it was reported that the federal cabinet had failed to make a decision on funding for the Punjab elections to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Today, Prime Minister (PM) Shehbaz Sharif presided over an important meeting of the federal cabinet. Cabinet members agreed to broaden the scope of consultations in order to issue funds to the ECP for the Punjab elections.

Cabinet members decided to take the matter to Parliament.

“The cabinet members stated that there are two different Supreme Court (SC) rulings that have increased confusion for the federal government.” Some members proposed partially releasing funds to the election commission in order to avoid facing contempt of court charges,” according to sources.

The cabinet decided to seek advice from Parliament because it is the superior institution, while also expressing reservations about the verdict of the Supreme Court’s three-member bench. The members also agreed to maintain Parliament’s supremacy.

It is worth noting that a three-judge bench comprised of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar declared the ECP’s order postponing the provincial assembly elections until October 8 as “unconstitutional” and ordered the government to release Rs21 billion funds for Punjab elections by April 10.

Election schedule in Punjab

Earlier, the Election Commission of Pakistan announced the schedule for the May 14 elections in Punjab.

The Punjab Assembly elections will be held on May 14, 2023, according to the electoral commission’s notification. The ECP also canceled its earlier plans to hold general elections in Punjab in October.

According to the schedule, appeals against the decisions of Returning Officers regarding the rejection or acceptance of nomination papers can be filed on April 10.

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