SC clubs pleas against judgment review law, Punjab polls order

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) decided on Wednesday to club petitions against the SC (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023 along with the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) review appeal against the apex court’s April 4 order in the Punjab polls case.

A three-member bench of the apex court was hearing petitions seeking a review of its earlier orders mandating the provision of elections in Punjab on May 14. CJP Bandial headed the proceedings alongside Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhter.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the federal government had challenged the court’s verdict.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court (SC) permitted the objections raised against the SC (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023 by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) counsel Ali Zafar and will begin hearing arguments on the matter on a daily basis starting June 13.

The court also issued notices to concerned parties including Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan and adjourned proceedings until next week.

Notably, the three-member bench had adjourned the hearing last week when the state’s top law officer had revealed that a new law enlarging scope of review petitions had been enacted.

The PTI had challenged the law as being “contrary to the Constitution”.

At the outset of the hearing today, Justice Akhtar questioned how the court could proceed with hearing petitions over the delay of elections for the Punjab Assembly with the SC (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023 now being in place.

The PTI’s lawyer pleaded the court not to permit the right to appeal granted under Clause 5 of the new law in the Punjab elections case.

“I am sure the court will declare this law null and void,” he said, adding that “if the law is maintained, a five-member bench would have to be constituted” and that it would be appropriate for the SC to “decide the Punjab election revision case under the old law”.

The CJP however remarked that “the ECP has given very good arguments about the provision of justice” as he stressed that the case was of “national significance”.

The CJP though went on to raise the question whether “the directives of constitutional traditions could be overruled”.

“The ECP’s lawyer has argued that the [new] law has expanded the scope of review, but there are some limits to appeals too,” Justice Bandial added.

“Elections were declared to be held in Punjab on May 14,” the CJ said, “we cannot turn back time now” but noted the question remains “what the consequences of these events will be”.

“After the events of May 9, the ECP’s lawyer cannot even say with certainty if elections will be held on October 8 or not,” he said.

The CJ also said that “if this matter goes before a larger bench then the ECP’s lawyer could begin his arguments from where he left off”, that is, present arguments about expanding the scope of review petitions.

The CJP also noted that the Constitution leaves room for extensions to be granted provided the circumstances meet a specified criterion.

“I thought the Constitution was murdered on May 15,” retorted Ali Zafar, stressing that “the population of two provinces remains deprived of public representation”.

“No matter what the circumstances or the arguments are, the court should decide the Punjab polls matter as early as possible,” he argued.

“You mean to argue that the government’s decision to grant the right of appeal against Article 184 (3) is against the Constitution?” CJ Bandial inquired.

“The points that were not raised in the main case cannot be brought up in the review,” argued the PTI lawyer.

The PTI’s lawyer argued that the right to appeal “is good, but it should be granted through a constitutional amendment”.

The CJP also noted that there were “good amendments related to Article 184(3) in the law”, adding that “the only mistake they made was that they declared the reviews as appeals”.

“Another good thing the government has accomplished is that they have decided to enter dialogue through the court,” said CJP Bandial.

Nonetheless, the court took strong exception to the protests held by PDM parties outside the court premises.

“Protesting at the court gate is tantamount to obstructing the delivery of justice,” he said, “whosoever creates hurdles in the delivery of justice is in the wrong, which has its own consequences.”

Subsequently, the apex court decided to list together petitions challenging the SC (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023 along with an ECP review petition against its April 4 order.


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