Friday June 21, 2024

Why should SC hear matters related to ECP’s jurisdiction, CJP asks PTI

CJP Isa says ECP has to look into complaints related to the snatching of nomination papers

By Maryam Nawaz
January 08, 2024
CJP Qazi Faez Isa-led bench hearing PTIs level playing field petition on December 8, 2024. — Screengrab/SC YouTube
CJP Qazi Faez Isa-led bench hearing PTI's level playing field petition on December 8, 2024. — Screengrab/SC YouTube

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa has observed that holding elections in the country is the duty of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and questioned why should the Supreme Court hear matters that fall in the ambit of the electoral body.

“The Election Commission has to look into whether someone’s nomination papers are being snatched or whatever is happening,” the CJP remarked during a hearing of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) plea seeking contempt proceedings against ECP for allegedly failing to ensure level-playing for the former ruling party ahead of February 8 elections.

The top judge recalled that the SC made it clear that fixing the election date was the job of the president and the electoral body.

A three-member bench led by CJP Isa and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musrat Hilali heard the matter.

The proceedings of the case were broadcast live on SC's website and YouTube channel.

PTI lawyer Latif Khosa presented arguments on behalf of Advocate Shoaib Shaheen, who filed the appeal in the court.

At the last hearing, the SC issued notices to the Punjab inspector general of police (IGP), chief secretary, and advocate general, seeking their response on the PTI's allegations regarding alleged harassment of their candidates and party leaders.

On December 22, the top court directed the ECP to address PTI’s concern regarding the level-playing field on the former ruling party’s petition.

In line with the court’s order, the ECP representatives met the PTI delegation and assured them of addressing its grievances in the lead up to the February 8 national vote.

However, the party filed another petition on December 26, seeking contempt of court proceedings against the ECP over the electoral body's alleged failure to ensure a level-playing field.

A day earlier, the ECP submitted its response to the top court on the PTI's level-playing field allegations.

The hearing

During the hearing today, PTI counsel Khosa told the bench that adverse actions were being taken against the PTI members through Section 144 and Maintenance of Public Order (MPO).

At which, the CJP said section 144 and MPO will be for everyone and not just for PTI.

“Neither Section 144 nor MPO has been challenged before us,” the CJP added.

The CJP also reminded the PTI counsel that the Supreme Court is not a political forum, asking him to use other forums for political purposes.

“Stop whining here. If you don’t have trust in any Pakistan’s institution then what should be done,” the CJP said after Khosa complained that nomination papers of their top leaders were rejected by returning officers.

Responding to Khosa’s assertion, Justice Mazhar pointed out that according to the report of the Election Commission nomination papers of more than 76% of PTI candidates were approved.

“We are the Supreme Court, not the government, we are not running anyone's campaign,” the CJP said after PTI counsel Latif Khosa complained that the party members were being subjected to political victimisation ahead of February 8 elections.

“Does PTI want elections?” CJP Isa asked Khosa. To which, Khosa replied: “100%, we want elections.”

The CJP said the Election Commission’s mandate is to conduct elections in the country.

“[..] these are the institutions established by you [parliament]…respect these institutions,” the top judge remarked.

Referring to the ECP report submitted to the top court, the CJP asked Khosa to deny the facts if they believed they were wrongly stated in the report.

Khosa complained that PTI has not been granted permission to hold political gatherings and nomination papers of senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi were rejected by the RO.

At which, the CJP responded that the Supreme Court cannot direct any RO not to reject anyone’s nomination papers.

The CJP inquired from the PTI counsel if he had read the report submitted by the ECP in response to the PTI’s petition.

CJP Isa said the PTI would have to come up with something in writing if it was rejecting the ECP’s report.

After hearing the arguments, the SC ordered PTI to submit its response to the ECP’s plea and adjourned the hearing till next Monday (January 15).