Thursday June 08, 2023

SC hears ECP plea today as Punjab polls deadline expires

Joint session of Parliament will take up NAB bill and eight other draft laws for passage

By Muhammad Anis & News Desk
May 15, 2023
A policeman walks past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad in this undated photo. — AFP/File
A policeman walks past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad in this undated photo. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) will take up the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) plea today (Monday) seeking to revisit its April 4 order of holding elections in Punjab as the May 14 deadline set by the top court expired on Sunday.

Last month, a three-member bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar had declared the ECP’s decision of holding polls on October 8 instead of April 30 “illegal” and ordered the electoral watchdog to hold polls in Punjab on May 14.

Subsequently, the election organising authority moved the top court to review its April 4 directives. In a 14-page petition, the top election organising authority said that the apex court should review its decision as the judiciary “doesn’t have the authority to give the date of elections”. “Such powers exist elsewhere under the Constitution but certainly not lie in a Court of law,” the ECP had said, citing various legalities and reasons behind its statement.

The electoral body accused the apex court of disregarding its constitutional jurisdiction, emphasising that it assumed upon itself the role of a public body in giving a date; “thus intervention by the court is necessitated to correct an error which has effectively changed the settled constitutional jurisprudence of the country”.

In a bid to ensure elections on the prescribed date, the three-member bench of the Supreme Court on April 14 had ordered the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to allocate and release Rs21 billion from the funds held with it to the ECP.

On April 18, the ECP informed the top court that it had not yet received Rs21 billion required for holding elections to the Punjab Assembly on May 14. CJP Bandial, on April 20, had remarked that the apex court could make some room and change the date of elections if all the political parties evolve a consensus. Later, the top court clarified that negotiations between the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to end the political deadlock on the general election’s timeframe were initiated in a volunteer capacity and that the top court did not issue any direction in this regard.

In a three-page verdict of the April 27 proceedings of the Punjab election delay case, the Supreme Court said its April 4 verdict directing the ECP to hold Punjab polls on May 14 “remained unchanged”. However, despite multiple rounds of negotiations, both sides could not develop a consensus on the matter and on May 3, the PTI submitted a report to the top court on negotiations with the PDM-led government, requesting the apex court to ensure implementation of its April 4 judgement regarding holding elections to the Punjab Assembly on May 14.

Meanwhile, a joint sitting of two houses of the Parliament scheduled on Monday afternoon (today) will take up the National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and eight other bills for passage.

The National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2023 passed by the National Assembly and the Senate and returned by the President will be taken into consideration and passage under Clause 2 of Article 75 of the Constitution.

Other eight bills include the Protection of Parents Bill, 2022; the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues (Amendment) Bill, 2021; the Trained Paramedical Staff Facility Bill, 2019; the Day Care Centers Bill, 2019; the Maternity and Paternity Leave Bill, 2020; the Criminal Laws (Amendment Bill, 2022; the Limitation (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Specific Relief (Amendment Bill, 2022.

All these bills were passed by the National Assembly and not passed by the Senate would be taken into consideration and for passage by the joint sitting under Clause 3 of Article 70 of the Constitution.

The National Accountability Bill, 2023 will provide a methodology for the transfer of cases from accountability courts to another forum that do not fall under the already amendment NAB Law. As per amendment, in the absence of the NAB chairman, the deputy chairman will act as chairman.

The joint sitting, besides passage of bills, is also expected to discuss issue of release of Imran Khan on points of orders, by the Supreme Court and grant of bails in all cases by the Islamabad High Court.

The sitting will also take up for discussion law and order situation, economic policy, respect for institutions, CPEV foreign policy and other matters. The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Murtaza Javed Abbasi had moved a motion for discussion on these issues on 8th of February.

Earlier, the National Assembly will also meet on Monday morning to take up the Civil Servants (Amendment) bill, 2023; the Elimination of Printing and Recording Errors (Amendment) bill, 2021 regarding publication of copies of Holy Quran; the Ruet-e-Hilal Bill, 2021 to regulate system for sighting of moon for commencement of Hijri calendar months and the Control Narcotics Substances Bill, 2022.