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SC to announce verdict on election date case today

ISLAMABAD: Today at 11 a.m., the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan will announce its decision in the suo motu case involving the delay in announcing the date for the holding of elections for the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assemblies.

The Supreme Court (SC), after hearing the arguments, reserved judgment and stated that the decision on the election date suo motu case would be made tomorrow at 11 p.m.

The case is being heard by a five-judge panel presided over by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and made up of Justices Munib Akhtar, Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Shah, and Mandokhail. The lawyers’ assistance in the case was acknowledged by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial.

The coalition government and PTI were given until 4 p.m. earlier in the day by the court to meet and determine the dates for the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A mutually agreeable date, however, could not be established.

Yesterday’s hearing

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Barrister Shehzad Ata Elahi objected to Supreme Court Bar Association President Abid Zuberi at the beginning of the session, claiming that his name had been taken off the court order.

CJP Bandial stated, “What is written in the court is not part of a judicial order.”

Judge Mandokhail questioned whether the governors and president were required to follow the cabinet’s recommendations at one point during the hearing. He inquired as to whether or not they could independently notify the polling day.

According to the Constitution, “presidents and governors were required to adopt the Cabinet’s advice,” he said.

He said, “Can the president or governors announce the election date on their own?”

Zuberi asserted that the “President is required to discuss with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on election dates.”

“President may only take choices as head of State,” Judge Mansoor Ali Shah responded.

Here, the CJP enquired as to who would send out the notification for the dissolution of the legislature.

Zuberi responded by stating that the law secretary had issued the notification for the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly.

Judge Akhtar then noted that the 90-day period begins immediately with the dissolution of the assembly.

Judge Mandokhail meanwhile argued that under Article 48 of the Constitution, the government must always be consulted before the president takes any official action.

Judge Mazhar then stated that the governor will announce the date while taking the Election Commission’s rulings into consideration.

Is the President permitted to make decisions without consulting the Cabinet? Judge Shah enquired.

The CJP Bandial next questioned whom the governor must speak with in order to announce election dates. The consultation may only be conducted with the ECP, according to Zuberi.

The CJP questioned whether the SCBA president was asserting that the current administration was not carrying out its constitutional obligations.

Judge Shah questioned if the governor was still required to announce the date of the Election Commission demonstrated its inability to hold elections. The governor must always provide the date, Zuberi retorted.

At one point, Judge Mazhar questioned the need for Section 57(1) and added that the statute should be repealed if the president was unable to announce the election date.

“In your view, who ought to declare the election date in accordance with the Constitution”? CJP asked the attorney general a question.

The AGP responded, “Only ECP can announce the election date.

“The President could only reveal the election date after the dissolution of the National Assembly. The AGP informed the court that in the second scenario, the president could merely reveal the date of the general elections.

The AGP persisted in making its points and asserted, “The Constitution is supreme and it forbids the president from announcing an election date.”

The role of the ECP is to hold elections and announce a date, according to the Lahore High Court.

At this point, Judge Akhtar stated that the ECP must choose an election date and that the governor must make the announcement.

Sujeel Shehryar Swati, an attorney for the ECP, spoke after the AGP had finished his case and argued that only the ECP could announce the date of by-elections.

The governor is required by the Constitution to announce the date of the provincial elections, according to Swati, who also noted that the Election Commission functions in accordance with the law and the Constitution.

Last hearing

Justices Ijazul Ahsan, Mazahar Ali Naqvi, Athar Minallah, and Yahya Afridi abstained from hearing the case during the previous hearing.

Four judges, according to the chief justice, have acted honorably by removing themselves from the proceedings. Nonetheless, he continued, “the remaining bench will continue hearing the matter.”

He pointed out that prior to the publication of the written order, Judge Mandokhail’s dissenting note had been circulated on social media. The CJP promised that “we would take care that this does not happen in the future.”

During the hearing, CJP Bandial emphasized that the Elections Act, 2017, which was passed by the parliament, expressly stated that the president might declare the election date.

President declares polls date

It is important to note that President Dr. Arif Alvi set April 9 as the date for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assemblies’ general elections. In accordance with clause 57(2) of the Constitution, they notified the date.

President Arif Alvi stated in a letter to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sultan Sikandar Raja that the constitution forbids holding elections more than 90 days after the dissolution of parliament and that he has sworn to uphold and defend the constitution.

The president has announced an election date to avoid violating the constitution, according to the letter, which claimed that the ECP and the governors of KP and Punjab are failing to fulfill their obligations to organize polls within 90 days.

According to him, both constitutional offices are putting the onus on one another, which is causing delays and endangering the constitution severely. President Arif Alvi stated that the election must be held within 90 days and he began holding serious consultations to determine the election date.

It is important to note that the Punjab and KP assemblies were dissolved on January 18 and January 14, respectively, following the announcement of the dissolution of the assemblies by former prime minister Imran Khan in an effort to compel the administration to call early elections.

Elections for the dissolved assemblies must be held in accordance with Pakistan’s Constitution within 90 days.

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