CEC’s refusal to administer oath to ECP members challenged

Updated September 21, 2019


CEC Sardar Mohammad Raza. — Photo courtesy: peshawarhighcourt.gov.pk
CEC Sardar Mohammad Raza. — Photo courtesy: peshawarhighcourt.gov.pk

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Amanullah Kanrani claimed on Friday that he had challenged in the Supreme Court the Aug 23 refusal of the chief election commissioner (CEC) to administer the oath of office to the two newly appointed members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Mr Kanrani, who is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) these days, told the media that he had moved a petition questioning CEC Chairman Sardar Mohammad Raza’s refusal not to administer the oath to the new members on the grounds that their appointments were made in contravention of the constitution.

Khalid Mehmood Sidd­iqui and Munir Ahmad Kakar were appointed mem­bers of the ECP by President Arif Alvi on Aug 22.

Though the SCBA president and his Advocate-on-Record (AoR), Syed Rafaqat Hussain Shah, have confirmed the filing of the petition, but they both say they do not have any copy of the same.

The SCBA president explained that since he was in the UAE to attend the first inaugural International Arab Youth Model conference he had no copy of the petition whereas his AoR said he simply signed the petition so that it could be filed, but he retained no copy.

On the other hand, SCBA Secretary Azmatullah Chaudhry distanced the association from the petition, saying that it was filed by Mr Kanrani in his personal capacity and not as the SCBA president.

“I being the secretary of the association disown the filing of the petition,” he said while talking to Dawn. If the case was taken up by the apex court, the SCBA would move a civil miscellaneous application explaining to the top court that the entire body disowned the contentions raised in the petition, he added.

Neither any meeting was called by the SCBA president nor any resolution was adopted by the executive committee of the association to seek prior approval for filing the petition, he said.

However, a senior counsel who wished not to be named, said that the petition was filed on behalf of an interested party through Mr Kanrani.

Meanwhile, Mr Kanrani explained that the lawyers’ fraternity was already against the appointments of retired judges in any institution and, therefore, this trend should be discouraged.

He stated that all retired judges should be removed from all high offices or institutions, rather best suited persons amongst lawyers, journalists, doctors and members from civil society should be elevated to such prestigious offices.

The retired judges who were inducted into different institutions, he explained, received two salaries, the first being pension as retired judges and the other for their post-retirement assignments. Such pay cheques and perks and privileges burdened the national exchequer, he said.

Mr Kanrani recalled that the issue of opposing the appointment of retired judges was highlighted by him at the opening of the new judicial year on Sept 9 as well as at a press conference in Quetta last week.

The petition has pleaded before the Supreme Court to order the CEC to immediately administer the oath of office to the two members who have been nominated by the government as members of the ECP.

The petition argues that the CEC lacks authority or power to question the choice of nominations by the government as members of the ECP since he is no more the judge of the Supreme Court or any high court.

The issue came to attention when the CEC refused to administer the oath of office to two members whom were appointed by President Alvi.

Soon after reluctance on part of the CEC to administer the oath, the law minister termed the move unconstitutional and argued that the CEC had no authority to examine the validity of government notifications. However, opposition parties praised the CEC for upholding the supremacy of the constitution and parliament.

In his letter to the ministry, the CEC had observed that the appointment of ECP members was not in accordance with the relevant articles of the constitution, and had also cited a 2013 Supreme Court judgment in which it was held that the president did not enjoy discretionary power in appointment of the CEC and ECP members.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2019