Full court formed to hear SIC plea on reserved seats issue

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DNA

ISLAMABAD: A 13-member full-court bench of the Supreme Court has been formed to hear a plea filed by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) challenging the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) verdict that denied the party reserved seats for women and minorities

Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa would head the bench, comprising all the available judges apart from Justice Musarrat Hilali, the sources said. Justice Hilali will not be part of the bench due to a heart ailment.

The case has been fixed for hearing on June 3.

Earlier this month, a three-member SC bench headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, and including Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah, suspended the PHC verdict and referred the matter to the judges’ committee for the formation of a larger bench since the matter required constitutional interpretation.

In its written order, the court stated that the questions of allocation of reserved seats in the National and provincial assemblies touch upon the foundational constitutional concept of parliamentary democracy that the voice of the electorate is truly reflected in the composition of the assemblies.

“Democratic mandate necessitates that the allocation of reserved seats enhances the representativeness of the electorate in the assemblies and upholds the principles of fairness and transparency in the electoral process. It is paramount to prioritize the integrity of the elections so that the Parliament remains a true reflection of the will of the people,” it said and granted leave to appeal.

The matter had ended up in the Supreme Court after the PHC had turned down SIC’s plea on reserved seats.  

In April, SIC chief Sahibzada Hamid Raza as well as the speaker of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly had filed appeals in the apex court against the judgment of the PHC, praying to allot the party 67 women and 11 minority seats in the assemblies, besides praying for setting aside the high court’s verdict.

Following the February 8 general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan had decided not to allocate reserved seats for women and minorities to the SIC  as they had not submitted their list of candidates for those seats. 

The decision was also upheld by the PHC.

However, when the decision was challenged in the Supreme Court  suspended the PHC order.

Following the SC order, the ECP suspended the victory notifications of 77 lawmakers elected on reserved seats denied to the SIC.

Hamid Raza-led SIC gained prominence after the PTI-backed candidates — who won in the February 8 polls — joined it as their party was deprived of its electoral symbol ‘bat’.

However, PTI’s attempt to claim the reserved seats was thwarted in March when the commission ruled that the SIC was not entitled to claim quota for reserved seats “due to having non curable legal defects and violation of a mandatory provision of submission of party list for reserved seats”.

The commission not only denied the reserved seats to SIC, it distributed them among other parties.