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Saturday March 02, 2024

KP, Punjab polls case: Govt asks two SC judges to recuse themselves from bench

PPP, JUI-F, PML-N ask SC to form full court bench to hear suo motu case

February 24, 2023
An undated photograph of Pakistans top court. — AFP/File
An undated photograph of Pakistan's top court. — AFP/File

The coalition government asked on Friday two Supreme Court (SC) judges — Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi — to recuse themselves from the bench hearing suo motu proceedings over a delay in the announcement of elections for the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assemblies.

The apex court resumed a suo motu hearing in the case on Friday. The case was heard by a nine-member larger bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial. Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Yahya Khan Afridi, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Athar Minallah, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail were also on the bench.

At the outset of the hearing today, three ruling coalition parties — Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), asked the apex court to form a full court bench to hear the suo motu notice.  The request was made in a joint statement read out by lawyer Farooq H Naek on behalf of the three parties.

The PPP lawyer also requested justices Ahsan and Naqvi to recuse themselves from the nine-member bench currently hearing the case.

Today's hearing

At the outset of today's hearing, the attorney-general told the court that they had not received the copy of the court order which is why all parties did not appear today.

At this, CJP Bandial remarked that the purpose of today's hearing was to inform the relevant authorities about the suo motu notice.

At this point, Naek appeared before the bench and read out a joint statement of the PPP, JUI-F and PML-N regarding their objections over the bench.

The lawyer said that both judges had made their observations on the matter when they heard Ghulam Mahmood Dogar's plea regarding his removal as the Lahore police chief.

The counsel also shared the dissenting note of Justice Mandokhail.

Naek stated that they were objecting to the two judges' inclusion in the "interest of justice, fair play and to protect the fundamental right to a fair trial and due process as guaranteed under Article 10A".

At this, Justice Minallah asked the lawyer if he felt there was a need to form a full court for the case.

“[The] matter of elections is of public [importance] so there should be [a] full court on this,” responded Naek and formally appealed for a full court to hear the suo motu notice on the delay in elections.

Meanwhile, the counsel for Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid said that the judiciary is being ridiculed on social media since yesterday and urged the court to look into this matter.

At this, CJP Bandial said that this matter will be looked into later. "Prepare for the case," the CJP told the attorney general.

However, Naek interjected that the matter pertaining to the bench formation and the objections surrounding it should be resolved first.

"The decision was made on February 16 and the notice was taken on February 22," said the CJP, adding that taking suo motu notice falls under the chief justice's jurisdiction. He said that the petitions by Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly speakers are clubbed with the suo motu.

The court is also looking into the questions raised in the petitions filed by the speakers, he added.

Justice Mandokhail said that political matters should be resolved in Parliament. "Tell your political parties why should the court hear these cases?" he added.

At this, the PPP's lawyer said that he will seek instructions from his party on this matter.

“Today the Constitution knocked on our doors which is why we took the suo motu notice,” remarked the CJP as he adjourned the hearing till 11:30am on Monday.