LAHORE: Advocate General of Punjab (AGP) Shan Gul told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that there was no provision in the Constitution or any law requiring the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to consult the governor for the announcement of election date in the province.

A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal and Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabbir, was hearing the intra-court appeals (ICAs) filed by the ECP and Governor Balighur Rehman against the decision of a single bench wherein the commission was ordered to immediately announce the date for the general election in Punjab after a consultation with the governor.

At the outset of the hearing, the bench posed a query whether the Constitution had a provision for the consultation between the ECP and the governor to announce the election date.

AGP Gul maintained that there was no provision in the Constitution or any law, which envisaged any consultation between the ECP and the governor on the general election date.

AGP tells LHC announcement of date by president not backed by law

The principal law officer said he did not want to comment on the decision of the president; however, added that the announcement of the election date by the president had no legal backing.

A counsel for the ECP also supported the arguments of the AGP.

Advocate Azhar Siddique, on behalf of one of the respondents, stated that only 52 days out of the timeline of 90 were left and the governor was not ready to announce a date for the election.

An additional attorney general sought time to seek instructions from the attorney general for Pakistan.

The bench allowed the request and adjourned the hearing till Feb 27.

The ECP`s appeal, filed through Advocate Shahzada Mazhar, contends that the single bench failed to consider that constitutional provisions and the Elections Act 2017 do not, in any manner, place any responsibility on the appellant (ECP) for the pronouncement of the date of the election.

It pleads that the single bench wrongly concluded that the governor is not empowered to announce a date for the election when he (governor) does not dissolve the assembly. The ECP asks the court to set aside the impugned judgment of the single bench as the law does not empower it to announce a date for the election.

The appeal of the governor states that the single judge failed to consider the provisions of the Constitution and the Election Act 2017 regarding the role of the appellant in announcement of the date for the election.

It pleads that the single judge misconstrued the provisions of Article 129 of the Constitution as the governor despite being the constitutional head of the province was not vested with any authority in relation to the general elections as had been presumed in the impugned judgment passed on Feb 10.

The single bench, comprising Justice Jawad Hassan, had on Feb 10 ordered the ECP to immediately announce the date of elections to the Punjab Assembly after consultation with the governor, in his capacity as the constitutional head of the province, to ensure that polls were held not later than 90 days as per the mandate of the Constitution. The judge had allowed petitions of the PTI and Munir Ahmad seeking directions for the governor and the ECP to immediately announce a date for general elections in the province, since the assembly had been dissolved.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2023

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