ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court wanted to see the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) evolve into a powerful institution, Chief Justice of Pakistan Just­ice Umar Ata Bandial said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, in a separate petition, the ECP asked the court to consolidate and transfer all six challenges to its contempt notices against PTI leaders, including chief Imran Khan, before one high court.

While hearing the appeal filed by PTI leader Faisal Vawda against his disqualification for life by the ECP, the chief justice observed: “The court does not like to see ECP decisions being overturned through writ petitions.”

Mr Vawda, a former senator, sought relief from the apex court after the ECP disqualified him for life on Feb 9 and conducted by-election on March 9 for the Senate seat which consequently fell vacant.

ECP seeks consolidation of all challenges by PTI leaders against contempt notices

The CJP recalled that the Islamabad High Court had already upheld the ECP decision to disqualify Faisal Vawda for life.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, who was part of the bench, noted that Mr Vawda had applied for annulment of his Ameri­can citizenship after submitting his nomination papers.

Waseem Sajjad, who represented the petitioner, said a moot question after the IHC decision was whether the ECP could be allowed to act as a court. The commission was not a court that could give a declaration of life-long disqualification, the counsel argued.

The ECP had handed the disqualification even though the Supreme Court had said in the Allah Dino Bhayo case that it was not a court of law, the petitioner recalled.

Hate speech

In a separate development, a different SC bench disposed of a case when the petitioner withdrew his petition seeking the issuance of a restraining order to discourage PTI leaders from making “provocative statements”.

The petition was moved by Qausain Faisal, an advocate, through Hassan Raza Pasha against PTI chairman Imran Khan and former ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Dr Shireen Mazari.

The petition complained that former prime minister Imran Khan had been making “unfounded, provocative, highly defamatory and derogatory statements” after his ouster.

ECP wants all PTI challenges merged

Meanwhile, in a petition filed through Advocate Sajeel Sheryar Swati on Thursday, the ECP has asked the court to consolidate the challenges to its contempt notices against PTI leaders before one high court.

The ECP argued that simultaneous proceedings of these petitions before different high courts was time-consuming and the “principles of administration of justice would be better served” if the matters were transferred to one high court.

The ECP had served notices in August and September on PTI Chairman Imran Khan, and party leaders Asad Umar, Chaudhry Fawad Ahmed, Mian Shabbir Ismail and Danial Khalid Khokhar, and later asked them to appear in person or through their counsel to explain their position.

They were served notices for using “intemperate” language against the chief election commissioner and the ECP.

However, the recipients challenged the notices in different high courts, including the Lahore High Court (LHC), its Rawalpindi bench, the Sindh High Court and the Islamabad High Court. They argued that the Election Act’s Section 10, which is about ECP’s power to punish for contempt, was against the Constitution.

The ECP’s petition also recalled that the respondents in contempt cases sought a declaratory relief from contempt charges from high courts. On Sept 7, an LHC single-member bench ordered the constitution of a larger bench to hear PTI petitions. It said all six petitions pertained to the same subject, raising common questions of law, i.e. challenges to Section 10 of the Election Act.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2022

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