ISLAMABAD / RAWALPINDI: While PTI Secretary General Asad Umar on Monday pleaded before the Supreme Court that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has no business to punish someone under contempt of court rules since it’s neither a court nor a tribunal, the Lahore High Court summoned him over his contemptuous speech.

“The preliminary questions requiring consideration and the decision by the Supreme Court is whether in the wake of Article 204 and Article 175A of the Constitution as well as judgements of the apex court where it had been held that the ECP is neither a court nor a tribunal, could Section 10 of Election Act 2017, give power and authority to the commission, the chairman and its members to be a court or judges of the high court,” argued a reply moved by Asad Umar though his counsel Anwar Mansoor.

The reply was submitted a day ahead of the scheduled hearing of ECP’s petition by a three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial. The ECP has requested the apex court to consolidate and transfer all six challenges pending before different high courts to its contempt notices against PTI leaders instead of defending the commission’s stance for issuance of contempt charges against PTI leaders in different high courts.

The ECP had during August and September issued contempt notices, in exercise of its powers of contempt, against PTI chief Imran Khan and party leaders Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Mian Shabbir Ismail and Danial Khalid Khokhar for allegedly using ‘intemperate’ language against the chief election commissioner (CEC) and ECP and asked them to appear in person or through their counsels before the commission to explain their position.

Court summons PTI secretary general over his ‘contemptuous’ speech

However, instead of appearing before the ECP, the PTI leaders challenged in different high courts the ECP notices and contempt proceedings on the grounds that Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017, which is the statutory provision regarding the commission’s power to punish for contempt, was against the Constitution.

In his reply before the apex court, Asad Umar argued that implementation of Section 10 of the Elections Act would amount to an action detrimental to life, liberty, body and reputation and also to acting in a manner prohibited by the Constitution.

The reply described the ECP contempt notice as oppressive and, therefore, illegal being arbitrary and capricious and bad in law. Asad Umar requested the apex court to suspend the contempt notice against him during the pendency of the petition moved by the ECP as well as restrain the commission from taking any further action or proceedings in the contempt matter during the pendency of the case.

‘Attempt to scandalise judges’

The LHC Rawalpindi bench, while taking up a petition of Rawalpindi’s traders against the blocking of roads during PTI’s protest, summoned Asad Umar on Wednesday (Dec 7) over his contemptuous remarks. Justice Jawad Hassan took notice of a report of the senior additional registrar that “the Gen­eral Secretary of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, during pendency of this petition…addres­sed a public gathering and made a public statement which was telecast countrywide.”

This statement of Asad Umar was “an attempt to scandalise the hon’ble judges of the superior courts tending to bring the superior courts and judges thereof into hatred and ridicule which requires to issue contempt proceedings against him under Article 204 of the Constitution”, the report contended.

It said Article 204(2)(b) of the Constitu­tion clearly states that court has power to punish any person who scandalises the court or otherwise does anything which tends to bring the court or a judge into hatred, ridicule or contempt.

The court observed: “The contents of Urdu transcript of the statement made by Respondent No. 8, [Asad Umar] which is attached with the aforesaid report submitted by the Senior Additional Registrar, clearly attracts the provisions of Article 204(2)(b) of the Constitution.”

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2022

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