No transfers or postings of officials of the local administration and police shall be undertaken to ensure fairness and transparency of by-polls, orders SC
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan Saturday issued a detailed order in the chief minister Punjab election case on the petition of PTI.
The 10-page verdict is authored by Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, stating that the order is passed which would amend and modify and to that extent override the impugned order of the Lahore High Court dated 30.06.2022 based on the unqualified consent of all parties.
On Friday, the top court, while settling the three-month-long political and constitutional deadlock in the country’s biggest province, fixed July 22 as the date for the run-off election for the chief minister Punjab seat.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, heard the petition filed by the PTI challenging the Lahore High Court (LHC) order, issued on Thursday.
The PTI had prayed the SC to amend/ modify the LHC order to the extent of provision of adequate and sufficient time to hold a session of the house enabling members to participate in the proceedings for the election of the Punjab chief minister in a fair and transparent manner.
The court, after an extensive hearing conducted in two phases, decided that the re-election of CM Punjab would be held after the by-election on 20 seats of the Punjab Assembly on July 17.
In its order issued today, the apex court has directed to hold a second poll for the election of the chief minister in terms of the proviso to Article 130(4) of the Constitution shall be held on Friday, 22.07.2022 at 4:00 pm in the Punjab Assembly building to be chaired by the Deputy Speaker.
The order stated that Hamza Shahbaz has “undertaken before the court that he and his cabinet shall exercise the powers and function their offices strictly in a fiduciary capacity as envisaged by the Constitution and the law to support the process of bye-election in the Province to be conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner by the Election Commission of Pakistan.”
It said that such commitment is made so that the people of Punjab are not deprived of due representation and governance, and to avoid any constitutional vacuum, anomaly or complication. “However, such entrustment shall continue only till 22.07.2022 when a second poll takes place in terms of Article 130(4) of the Constitution.”
The court has also directed the LHC to issue detailed reasons related to the notification on reserved seats within one week and instructed the Election Commission to implement it forthwith.
It also directed that July 17 by-polls shall be held in “a free, fair and transparent manner” according to the schedule announced by the ECP.
“The ECP as well as all relevant state functionaries including members of the Parliament and the provincial assemblies, ministers, advisors, etc shall ensure that all parties follow the election laws as well as the Code of Conduct issued by the ECP in their letter and spirit and refrain from any interference, inducement or influence in the affairs of the executive, the local administration, the ECP, etc or indulge in corrupt and illegal practices, the use of State machinery in the process of bye-elections, harassment, intimidation or use of law enforcement agencies against opponents/candidates or their supporters, etc except to restore law and order.”
To ensure fairness and transparency of the election, the court added that no transfers or postings of officials of the local administration, police, or Provincial Election Commission shall be undertaken and no fresh development schemes and/or financial allocations shall be made in the constituencies where the bye-election is to be held till finalisation of the electoral process.
The order mentioned that Speaker Punjab Assembly Pervez Elahi has given a categoric assurance that all matters relating to the business of the assembly shall be handled and dealt with peacefully, impartially and transparently within the assembly chambers.
“In addition, all parties including [Hamza Shahbaz] Sharif have categorically assured and stated that a peaceful and congenial atmosphere will be maintained not only during the poll but also in the proceedings in the Provincial Assembly held thereafter until the announcement of the result. We expect that such undertakings and assurances shall be honoured and implemented.”
In its conclusion, the order appreciated “the positive and constructive attitude adopted and the role played not only by the top leadership of three political parties involved in the dispute but also by the respective learned counsel.”