KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has dismissed a petition for not being maintainable against the appointments of two serving and as many retired members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The Aam Log Ittehad party, through its head retired Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed, had moved the SHC last year contending that the appointments of all the four members of the ECP were illegal.

The petitioner submitted that three of them — retired justices Shakeel Ahmad Baloch, Irshad Qaiser and Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi, former high court judges — were appointed as ECP members in violation of Article 207 (2) of the Constitution since their appointments were made before the expiration of a mandatory period of two years after they ceased the office as judges of the high courts.

He maintained that retired bureaucrat Abdul Ghaffar, the fourth member of the ECP, was inducted when he was facing a corruption case and his name was also placed on the exit control list.

A two-judge SHC bench headed by Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi had heard the petition and his order was announced by another division bench on Friday.

According to the judgement, authored by Justice Abbasi, the office of the ECP was a “quasi-judicial office” and thus the bar of expiration of two years in terms of Article 207(2) of the Constitution would not be attracted in the case of appointment of retired judges of superior and higher judiciary.

Therefore, a writ of quo-warranto cannot be issued against three members/respondents being the retired judges of different high courts on the grounds that their appointments had been made before expiration of two years from the date when they ceased to hold office as judges of high courts and accordingly, writ against them is misconceived and not maintainable, it added.

The judgement further said that as far as the case of the fourth member was concerned, no substantial constitutional or legal ground had been agitated nor any sufficient material or evidence produced in support of the allegations of corruption.

“Therefore, we are not inclined to conduct any inquiry or to make a probe into the allegations levelled against respondent No. 5 while exercising constitutional jurisdiction under Article 199(i)(b)(ii) of the Constitution in the instant case. Accordingly, writ against respondent No.5 is not maintainable,” it added.

The lawyers for respondents during the proceedings had raised preliminary objections about the maintainability of petition and contended that the petitioner had no locus standi to file such a petition as he was not an aggrieved person and writ of quo-warranto was not maintainable since two of the members/respondents (retired justice Shakeel Baloch and Abdul Ghaffar) had already stood retired on Jan 26, 2019.

The counsel also questioned the jurisdiction of the SHC and contended that the petition under Article 199 of the Constitution was not maintainable before this court as none of the four members belonged to the province of Sindh.

However, the bench observed that petitioner had the locus standi to file such a constitutional petition in the nature of quo-warranto under Article 199(i)(b)(ii) of the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2020

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