ISLAMABAD: Against the backdrop of allegations of massive rigging in last year’s general elections, the Supreme Court reserved on Thursday its judgment on whether the high courts could entertain interim orders issued by election tribunals in post-election disputes.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk hearing a number of appeals on poll disputes reserved the judgment after intense two-day proceedings during which lawyers from the two sides advanced their arguments.
The appeals were moved by Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed from NA-55 Rawalpindi, PML-N candidates Raza Hayat Hiraj (NA-156 Khanewal), Mohammad Riaz Malik (NA-118 Lahore) and Malik Mohammad Afzal Khokhar (NA-128 Lahore), PPP’s Khawaja Ghulam Rasool Koreja (NA-192 Bahawalpur) and PTI’s Javed Hashmi (NA-149 Multan).
The runners-up from the constituencies — including Shakeel Awan (PML-N), Syed Fakhar Imam (PPP), Hamid Zaman (PTI), Makhdoom Ahmed Alam Anwar (PML-N) and Karamat Ali Khokhar (PTI) — had challenged the results in different election tribunals which issued interim orders in some cases asking for verification of votes in certain polling stations.
The winning candidates challenged the interim orders in high courts which rejected their petitions on the grounds that the courts had no jurisdiction to entertain interlocutory orders of the tribunals in view of the constitutional bar under Article 225 of the Constitution. The article empowers the tribunals to determine controversies relating to the post-election litigations.
Consequently, the successful candidates moved the apex court.
The questions raised during the proceedings requiring interpretation by the Supreme Court are: whether Article 225 ousts the jurisdiction of the high court with regard to the post-election disputes; whether the bar mentioned in Article 225 is absolute; whether the jurisdiction of the high court under Article 199 of the Constitution can be exercised against interlocutory orders issued by the election tribunals during trial; and whether the high court can exercise its jurisdiction if the decision of an election tribunal is erroneous on a point of law, arbitrary or result of non-reading of material on record.
During the proceedings, senior lawyer Mohammad Akram Sheikh, who was representing Javed Hashmi, said his client’s appeal had become infructuous after he himself had announced his resignation in parliament.
The Election Commission has announced holding by-election in his constituency on Oct 16.
Deputy Attorney General Khawaja Ahmed Hosain, representing the government, supported the petitions and said these were maintainable and, therefore, should be accepted.
“It will be highly undesirable that the election tribunal at the interlocutory stage should have absolute discretion,” he said , citing a situation in which a tribunal handed down a decision on an election dispute contrary to the law.
“Should the people aggrieved by decision (of a tribunal) have no right to have a forum in the shape of the high court to seek remedy?” he asked.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2014