The Sindh High Court (SHC) repeated on Thursday its notice to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary to file comments explaining the legality of the recent extension in the tenure of the election tribunals.
This exercise was allegedly undertaken without the consultation of the provincial chief justices. Justice Munib Akhtar, who headed the bench, directed the standing counsel for the federal government to submit the ECP secretary’s reply by August 13.
Currently, numerous election petitions have been filed in the tribunals to challenge the results of the May 11 general elections held on different national and provincial assembly constituencies, including that won by Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah. These pleas are pending disposal before the election tribunals.
The high court had previously granted stay against the proceedings initiated by the three tribunals hearing the election complaints at the time, as political rivals went on to raise objections to their rivals’ victories. Subsequently, a number of the election petitions challenging the orders of the tribunals were filed with the SHC, which had granted stay against various orders passed by the tribunals.
Meanwhile, a larger bench was constituted by the SHC chief justice to decide whether or not the high court could grant a stay against the interlocutory orders of the tribunals. In its recent ruling, the larger bench had held that the high court could not pass injunctive orders against the interlocutory orders, thus the stay granted against the tribunals’ orders were recalled.
Since the stays had delayed the proceedings, the ECP extended by six months the tenure of the tribunals, which had ended on June 30, to enable them decide all the pending election matters.
However, a former senator, Masroor Ahsan, approached the SHC to question the legality of the election tribunals’ tenure extension and named the top election body and others as respondents. He submitted that the ECP had constituted election tribunals under Section 67 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976, to hear and decide the complaints relating to the violations of the laws and code of conduct in the general elections held on May 11, 2013, in all provinces.
The petitioner said that the tribunals’ term had expired and the Supreme Court had ruled that the extension in the tenure of such tribunals be made by the election commission after consulting all the provincial chief justices.
The former senator said that the tenure of the election tribunals had expired on June 30 and, therefore, the ECP secretary extended their tenure by six months without consulting the provincial chief justices, which is binding by virtue of the apex court’s ruling.
He argued that since no consultation has been held with the chief justices, the recent extension is illegal and pleaded that they be stopped from functioning. Last week, the SHC bench had issued notices to the ECP to file its reply.
A standing counsel, who appeared for the federal government on Thursday, requested to the court to re-issue notice to the ECP secretary, who has failed to file the comments. Taking note of the same, the bench repeated notice to the ECP secretary to file comments by August 13.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2014.