ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notices to PTI chief Imran Khan and other party leaders, including Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry, in cases related to the contempt of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The matter related to the ECP serving contempt notices on the former prime minister and other PTI leaders for using “intemperate language” against the commission and the chief election commissioner.
However, when these recipients then challenged these notices in different high courts, the ECP petitioned the Supreme Court to have these cases consolidated and transferred to one high court to defend its stance better.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ayesha Malik and newly elevated Justice Athar Minallah heard the case at the apex court in Islamabad on Tuesday.
Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry also among recipients
Justice Bandial observed that the ECP had taken up the plea that either it should prepare for the general and the local bodies’ election or pursue cases in different high courts. He also inquired about any precedence in which the apex court had consolidated cases pending in different high courts, adding that the ECP was relying its case on Article 186A of the Constitution, which empowers the Supreme Court to transfer cases.
ECP’s counsel, Barrister Sajeel Sheryar Swati, recalled that the apex court had earlier ordered the consolidation of all income tax cases to one high court in 1999. However, the chief justice observed that a valid point needed to be presented to have the cases consolidated.
Justice Ayesha Malik observed that in the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s cases, the top court had declared that high court cases would continue and would not be merged.
Justice Athar Minallah, however, recalled that the apex court had consolidated all the high court cases in one court in the Haj assistance case.
The hearing was adjourned for an indefinite period.
In its petition, the commission recalled it had served contempt notices on Imran Khan, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Mian Shabbir Ismail and Danial Khalid Khokhar in August and September for using “intemperate” language against the ECP and the chief election commissioner. The ECP asked them to appear in person or through their counsel to explain their position.
However, the recipients challenged the notices before different high courts, including the Lahore High Court, its Rawalpindi bench, the Sindh High Court and the Islamabad High Court, on the grounds that Section 10 of the Elections Act, the statutory provision about the commission’s power to punish over contempt, was against the Constitution. They also sought declaratory relief from the contempt charges.
The petition also recalled that on Sept 7 a single-member bench of the LHC had also ordered the constitution of a larger bench to hear PTI petitions.
The ECP argued that all six petitions pertained to the same subject, as they insisted that Section 10 of the Elections Act was ultra vires (beyond the powers) — an act which requires legal authority but is done without it.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2022
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