LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Monday dismissed several petitions, mostly by the PTI-backed independent defeated candidates, challenging the victory of different politicians, including PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, former defence minister Khawaja Asif,and Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party’s Aleem Khan and Awn Chaudhry.

Justice Ali Baqar Najafi had reserved a verdict on the maintainability of the petitions following the daylong hearings, which were announced at 10pm.

The judge ruled against the maintainability of the petitions before the high court before availing the first remedy of the law under the Election Act 2017.

The petitioners had assailed the victories of the respondents mainly on the ground that the returning officers (ROs) concerned consolidated the results and prepared Form 47 in their absence, which was an illegal exercise of the power, therefore, can be questioned in a constitutional jurisdiction.

However, the judge noted that the Supreme Court earlier ruled that the question of consolidation of results, as well as recounting, can be agitated through election petition, and not by invoking the constitutional jurisdiction of a high court.

Several others also declared unmaintainable by high court

The judge said the apex court, in another case, categorically ruled that the extraordinary jurisdiction of the high court cannot be reduced to an ordinary jurisdiction of the high court as there will be disputed questions of facts which cannot be resolved.

“If there is no ordinary remedy available, the extraordinary remedy of the constitutional jurisdiction could be invoked,” the judge said, relying on a SC judgement.

Justice Najafi observed that the ground before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for recounting etc. would be a grave illegality or violation materially affecting the results of elections either in some polling stations or all the polling stations of the constituency, as held in Ali Asjad Malhi’s case.

The judge observed that the contesting parties took divergent stands in respect of associating the petitioners/candidates in the consolidation process, which are all disputed questions of fact and cannot be resolved in the exercise of constitutional jurisdiction under Article 199 of the Constitution.

However, the judge said it will be important to mention that after preparation of Form 47, a notice is required to be issued for preparation of Form 48 under the Elections Act, 2017 and its rules.

The ECP also assured the court that notices would be issued to the candidates prior to preparation of Form 48.

Justice Najafi dismissed over a dozen constitutional petitions for being not maintainable.

The judge observed that the petitioners may always file a representation under section 8, 9, 15, 95 of the Elections Act, 2017 read with Article 218(3) of the Constitution before the ECP.

The judge said the consolidation of the result whether made in presence or absence of the petitioner will be resolved by the ECP while deciding the matter, if agitated before it.

“A prompt decision by the ECP will be in the spirit of Article 218(3) and 224 of the Constitution by strictly complying with the provisions of Elections Act, 2017,” Justice Najafi concluded his verdict.

Mian Shahzad Farooq had filed the petition against the victory of Maryam Nawaz from NA-119, Salman Akram Raja against Awn Chaudhry from NA-128, Rehana Dar against Khwaja Asif from NA-71, Ali Ijaz Buttar against Aleem Khan from NA-117 and Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed against Malik Khalid Khokhar from PP-169.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2024

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