LAHORE: A Lahore High Court judge on Monday recommended the chief justice to constitute a larger bench to decide a petition challenging the powers enjoyed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to award punishment for contempt under Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017.

Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh observed that important legal points had been raised in the petition, which needed to be heard by a larger bench.

He referred the case to the chief justice with a request to form a larger bench to hear it.

In a September hearing, the judge had issued notices to the respondents and also sought assistance from the attorney general for Pakistan and Punjab advocate general on the ECP’s powers to punish for contempt.

Petitioner Malik Shabbir Ismail through his counsel Azhar Siddique contended that the Supreme Court had in multiple cases held that the Election Commission of Pakistan was neither a court nor a tribunal, therefore, the power conferred upon it under Section 10 could not be exercised for being violative of articles 204 and Article 175 of the Constitution.

Section 10 of the elections act reads: “The Commission may exercise the same power as the High Court to punish any person for contempt of court and the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 (V of 2003), or any other law pertaining to contempt of court shall have effect accordingly as if reference therein to a court and to a judge were a reference, respectively, to the commission and the commissioner or, as the case may be, a member of the commission.”

The counsel contended that the Article 175 clearly referred to courts by categorically stating that there would be a Supreme Court and high courts of each province and such other courts as may be established by the law.

He said the ECP had not been declared or established as a court, however, Section 10 of the Act conferred power of a court upon the commission, without it being established as one.

He further said any order passed by the ECP in pursuance of Section 10 was challengeable before the Supreme Court.

The counsel asked the court to declare that Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017 was in violation of the Constitution, and restrain the Election Commission of Pakistan from taking any action or proceedings under the impugned section.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2022

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