ISLAMABAD: The Rawalpindi bench of Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday provided relief to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders Imran Khan and Fawad Chaudhry as it suspended contempt notices issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to the aforementioned politicians.

LHC senior judge Jawadul Hassan heard the petitions filed by Mr Khan and Mr Chaudhry through their lawyers against the ECP’s notice wherein they took the stance that the election watchdog lacked the jurisdiction to pursue contempt proceedings against them.

As the court suspended the notices till the outcome of the petition, a three-member larger bench was formed to hear the case. The bench includes Justice Jawadul Hassan, Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan, and Justice Mirza Waqas Rauf. The case will be taken up on Sept 29.

“...it is directed that the proceedings may continue but no final order shall be passed till [the] outcome of the writ petition and in the meanwhile, no adverse action shall be taken against the petitioner(s) under [the] garb of the impugned notices, till the next date of hearing,” the order read.

Court bars commission from taking any ‘adverse action’ against petitioners until next hearing

Imran Khan and Fawad Chaudhry in their petitions had said the show-cause notices were contrary to the provisions of the Constitution as the ECP had “no jurisdiction to punish any person for contempt of court”. They added that these powers were vested only with the superior courts, and such constitutional powers could not be conferred upon the ECP through subordinate legislation.

They said it was a judicial function and the Election Commission under numerous dictums was neither court nor tribunal. They said the language of the Constitution implied that the ECP was responsible only for conducting the elections.

“The Act of 2017, it is submitted, does not give any jurisdiction to the Election Commission to act as a court or a tribunal whereas; it only says that it may exercise the power of the high court to punish any person for contempt of court.

“It is submitted that the Constitution being the prime supra law cannot be violated by any subservient law in that, any law which is violative of the Constitution is void ab initio being ultra vires the Constitution”, the petition submitted by the former prime minister read.

It added that on account of the fact that Section 10 of the 2017 Act is ultra vires the Constitution; therefore, such notices under the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act cannot be given.

The ECP through the show cause notices had summoned Imran Khan, Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar to appear before it in person on September 27.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2022

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