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Sunday July 21, 2024

SC judge says proportional representation must for reserved seats allocation

Justice Minallah says women and minorities must get representation in parliament

By Arfa Feroz Zake
June 25, 2024
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa presides over a hearing on June 25, 2024. — YouTube screengrab/Supreme Court
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa presides over a hearing on June 25, 2024. — YouTube screengrab/Supreme Court 

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court's Justice Ayesha A Malik asserted Tuesday that the allocation of reserved seats in the legislature cannot be done in a manner that contradicts the fundamental principle of proportional representation.

Her remarks came during the hearing on Sunni Ittehad Council's (SIC) petition challenging Peshawar High Court's (PHC) judgment denying the party reserved seats for women and minorities.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, a 13-member bench of the apex court heard the matter. 

The bench comprises Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Ayesha A Malik, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Syed Hassan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed, Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan.

"Whether SIC wins or loses this case, what will other parties benefit from it?" questioned Justice Ayesha during the hearing today, noting that the the reserved seats can only be allotted on the principle of proportional representation and not contrary to that.

Meanwhile, Justice Minallah said women and minorities must get representation in Parliament.

He said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) were affected earlier but the SC did not come forward to help.

"The same is happening as it did in 2018. One party is the victim," said Justice Minallah, adding that the court did not learn from its history.

The judge added that there would surely come a time in the future when the Supreme Court will regret its decision again.

The hearing of the case has been adjourned till 11.30am on Thursday.

SIC reserved seats issue

The PTI-backed independent candidates, who emerged victorious in the February 8 elections, had joined the SIC in a bid to claim seats reserved for minority and women.

However, this did not help the party as the election commission did not allocate reserved seats to the SIC, citing its failure to submit its list of candidates.

The party had then approached the PHC on the said issue wherein the court upheld the electoral body's decision.

In April, SIC chief Sahibzada Hamid Raza, along with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly speaker, moved the SC seeking setting aside of the PHC verdict and the allocation of 67 women and 11 minority seats in the assemblies.

On May 6, a three-member SC bench headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, including Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah, suspended the PHC verdict.

It then referred the matter to the judges' committee for the formation of a larger bench since the matter required constitutional interpretation.

Meanwhile, the ECP had last week submitted its response to the apex court, saying the SIC does not qualify for reserved seats as the political party doesn't allow non-Muslims to be a part of it.

The ECP informed the top court that the reserved seats cannot be allotted to the SIC as the party did not submit the list of candidates before the January 24 deadline.