ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday warned that the failure of the federal government to comply with the April 4 direction regarding the release of Rs21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, prime facie amounts to disobedience.

“The consequences that can flow from such prima facie defiance of the court are well settled and known,” said an order issued by the Supreme Court registrar in which the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan, the finance secretary, and the ECP representatives were asked to appear in chambers on Friday (April 14) at 11:00 am.

The order was issued after the matter was placed before the judges — who decided the case on April 4 — in chambers.

On Tuesday, ECP furnished documents and reports in pursuance of the April 4 order.

The court order said that every person who embarks upon, encourages or instigates disobedience or defiance of the court can be held liable and accountable.

The result of the present prima facie disobedience is that yet again, the holding of general elections in a timely manner as mandated by the Constitution may be put in jeopardy, the order said, adding that question of the provision of funds for such a vital constitutional purpose is something that requires immediate attention which takes priority over proceeding against those who may have committed contempt of the court.

Court seeks ‘details of all monies’ under control of State Bank; summons AGP, finance secretary, ECP officials

In the first instance, the order said, the SBP governor and the next senior official of the central bank will appear in person before the Supreme Court in chambers on Friday.

“The officers are required to bring with them the record and details of all monies whatsoever of the federal government lying with or under the control, custody or management of the bank under any law, rule, practice or agreement.”

The court said that such documents should also include, in particular, terms of the Federal Government Receipt and Payment Rules 2021, with specific reference to Rules 3 and 4 etc framed under the Public Finance Management Act 2019 and Section 21 of the State Bank of Pakistan Act 1956.

The order also directed to issue notices to the AGP to appear before the court at the same time as well as the finance secretary and the next most senior official of the ministry along with relevant records and detailed reports to be placed before the court suggesting why the order of the court has not been complied with as stated by ECP.

The court order also directed to issue notice to the ECP secretary and director general (Law) to appear in person before the court on the date with a complete record pertaining to the elections to the Punjab and KP assemblies.

“You are, therefore, required to comply with the above said Court order in letter and spirit,” the court order said issued.

While fixing May 14 as the election date for the Punjab Assembly, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial through its judgement ordered the ECP to file a report by April 11, highlighting whether the federal government has provided a fund of Rs 21 billion which was also received by the commission and if so, whether in full or in part.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2023

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