ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial said on Wednesday the Supreme Court protects the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as it enjoys complete authority in accordance with the Constitution to perform statutory and constitutional functions, but the top court would interfere in case of any abuse of authority or mala fide on part of the commission.

Since it is the ECP’s responsibility to ensure free and fair elections and it can allow transfer and posting in accordance with the constitution, the SC will protect the commission just as it protects other constitutional bodies such as parliament, he noted.

The chief justice made these observations on Wednesday at the hearing of former Lahore CCPO Ghulam Mehmood Dogar case in which the Supreme Court on Feb 17 suspended the order for his repatriation to the federal government.

Pleading that he was being subjected to victimisation due to political vendetta between the centre and provincial governments, Mr Dogar through his counsel Abid Shahid Zuberi had challenged the Nov 24, 2022 direction of the federal services tribunal of allowing a notification issued for his repatriation to the federal government.

Later, the ECP also approached the SC to become a party in the case, arguing that without reshuffle of ‘partisan’ officers, free and fair elections was not possible in line with Article 218 (dealing with the ECP duty) of the constitution and Section 230 (functions of the caretaker government) of the Elections Act, 2017, said a five-page application filed before the apex court on ECP’s behalf.

SC regrets campaign to malign judges through audio, video leaks; Justice Bandial vows to protect judiciary ‘like other institutions’

CJP Bandial, who was heading the three-judge Supreme Court bench, explained that SC decisions were meant to protect the constitutional bodies no matter it was ECP or the parliament, regretting that sometimes misgivings and doubts were created by misconstruing court observations.

He recalled how during a case about amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), the court had mentioned about an honest prime minister (Mohammad Khan Junejo) in 1988, but the remarks were misconceived by the parliament. The court had never said that there

was only one ‘honest’ prime minister in the country’s history, he observed, adding that the SC through its judgement had always protected the constitutional institutions.

“Now the judiciary is also under attack, and the court will also safeguard the judiciary,” Justice Bandial reiterated.

Video leak carries ‘no legal value’

While regretting the ongoing “scurrilous campaign against the judiciary through video-audio leaks”, the CJP expressed displeasure and said the court was showing patience and restraint. He also questioned their credibility, stating that the leaks on the social media had no authenticity.

The CJP regretted that disparaging and derogatory allegations were being levelled against the judiciary, but by showing extreme patience and restraint the apex court would protect the constitutional institutions, because the audio and video leaks had no legal value.

He was referring to the recent video in which Mohammad Khan Bhatti, the then principal secretary to the then Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, was seen hurling allegations against the judges of the superior judiciary.

He said SC decisions were meant to protect the constitutional bodies no matter it is ECP or parliament, but sometimes SC observations were misconstrued.

Counsel for the ECP Sajeel Shaharyar Swati earlier said that Article 218 empowered the ECP to conduct fair and transparent elections.

The court, however, disposed of the matter after Mr Dogar withdrew his appeal.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2023

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