ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday declared Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision on Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) election null and void.
The decision was announced by a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar.
The Supreme Court, in its verdict, declared the electoral body’s decision to hold polls on October 8 as “unconstitutional”.
The top court directed to conduct provincial polls between April 30 to May 15.
“Constitution and law do not give the authority to postpone the election date,” said the apex court, adding that the electoral process was at its fifth stage when the ECP announced its decision.
The court remarked that the ECP’s order wasted 13 days, saying that the electoral body made an unconstitutional decision by shifting the date for the polls to October 8.
The ECP had earlier set the date for elections in Punjab on April 30, but later it was postponed to October 8 — in Punjab and KP as well — prompting the opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), to file a plea in the top court.
The apex court — which initiated proceedings on PTI’s petition on March 27 — reserved the verdict a day earlier, saying it would announce it the next day, April 4.
Ahead of the expected verdict, the Ministry of Defence had submitted its report explaining the reasoning behind the army’s refusal to provide security for the polls.
As the top court accepted the plea and began hearing it on the same day, March 27, it held six hearings for a period spanning over eight days, in which parties involved presented their arguments.
Initially, a five-member bench was formed, comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
But on March 30, Justice Amin recused himself from the proceedings, citing a judgement from a three-member bench that halted proceedings under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.
Then, the bench was cut down to four members — CJP Bandial, Justice Mandokhail, Justice Akhtar, and Justice Ahsan.
A day later on March 31, Justice Mandokhail also recused himself and noted that since he was not consulted before the formation of the bench, he would like to withdraw himself.
A new bench was formed comprising CJP Bandial, Justice Akhtar, and Justice Ahsan to hear the case.
The three-member bench, which announced the verdict, heard arguments from advocate generals of Punjab and KP, the attorney general for Pakistan, ECP’s lawyer, and secretaries of defence and finance.
While the hearing was going on, the coalition parties — comprising Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — sought the formation of a full court to hear the case.
But the top court rejected their request. The coalition parties have expressed no confidence in the three-member bench hearing the case and maintained that it would not accept the decision.
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar has also said the government will not accept if the Supreme Court’s decision on a sensitive and important issue is announced in haste.