Islamabad: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday allowed the Election Commission of Pakistan ECP to continue its proceedings against former prime minister Imran Khan and his party leaders Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry in cases related to the contempt of the electoral body.
A three-member SC bench passed the orders. The bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial comprises of Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Ayesha A Malik.
Exercising its powers, the ECP last year had issued contempt notices, against PTI chief and four party leaders. They allegedly resorted to “intemperate” language against the chief election commissioner. Where ECP and asked them to appear in person or through their counsels before the commission to explain their position.
However the PTI leaders instead of appearing before the ECP challenged in various high courts the ECP contempt notices. The PTI made the move on the grounds that Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017 was against the Constitution. The said section is the statutory provision regarding the commission’s power to punish for contempt.
According to the Election Act 2017, Section 10 titled “Power to punish for contempt” states that the “election commission may exercise the same power as the high court to punish any person for contempt of court and the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 (V of 2003), or any other law pertaining to contempt of court shall have effect accordingly[…]”
The PTI leaders had also sought from the high courts a declaratory relief from the charges.
Later, a petition was moved through Advocate Sajeel Sheryar Swati on behalf of the ECP with a request to order consolidation of all six petitions before one high court instead of defending the commission’s stance over the issuance of contempt notices against PTI leaders in different high courts.
At the previous hearing, the top court had directed the high courts hearing petitions filed by the PTI against the ECP to quickly decide on the matter.
Dawn news reports that the the seven-page document issued today, a copy of which is available with the daily said that the proceedings initiated by the electoral body under Section 10 of the Election Act, 2017, against the respondents “have been allowed to continue”.
“But ECP has been hereby restrained from passing final orders under the said section.”
The order highlighted that the high courts had not stopped the commission from proceeding in the matter initiated by it and the respondents had raised objections about the “alleged incompetence” of the officer who had issued the show cause notices.
“As these objections have been raised in the pending proceedings under section 10 before the ECP, the same are required to be considered and decided by it before passing any final order.
“We hold that the petitioner [ECP] may continue its proceedings in accordance with law including, by decisions on the objections raised on behalf of the respondents,” it added.
The order also maintained that the operation of a statutory provision must not be interrupted by a court of law. Unless a statute or statutory provision is finally declared to be ultra vires the Constitution. Its normal operations can be curtailed by an interim order.”
Subsequently, the top court disposed of ECP’s petition.