Apex Court suspends PHC, ECP orders on SIC reserved seats Issues notices to Attorney General for Pakistan & Advocate Generals of the Provinces for assistance

Apex Court suspends PHC, ECP orders on SIC reserved seats

Stops reserved seats members from casting their votes in legislation who have taken oath on the additional reserved seats

Issues notices to Attorney General for Pakistan & Advocate Generals of the Provinces for assistance

ISLAMABAD   (  Web News   )

The Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended on Monday the Peshawar High Court (PHC) and the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) order allocating reserved seats to other parties on the quota of Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC). The court has issued notices to Attorney General for Pakistan and Advocate Generals of the Provinces for assistance.

A three-member bench headed by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah heard the SIC’s plea filed through Advocate Faisal Siddiqui last month.

The bench unanimously suspended the ECP’s decision for the re-allocation of reserved seats to other political parties. Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah later in the day issued written order of the hearing of Monday comprising three pages.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had rejected the party’s plea depriving it of reserved seats.

“[We are accepting the [SIC’s] pleas [against the PHC verdict], Justice Mansoor Ali Shah stated, and asked under what law [reserved] seats were allocated to other parties.

Barring the members, who have taken oath on the additional reserved seats, from casting their votes in legislation, the SC said that it will hear the case on a daily basis from June 3.

Furthermore, the court noted that the said issue only concerns the additional reserved seats allotted to the political parties later on.

At the outset of the hearing, Faisal Siddiqui came to the rostrum to present his arguments and informed the court that PTI-backed independent candidates who had won the general elections had joined the SIC.

At one point, when Justice Minallah asked if the PTI was a “registered [political] party”, the lawyer replied in the affirmative.

Here, Justice Shah observed, “It is a registered political party [but] just did not take part in the elections.”

“Within how many days must independent candidates join a party?” Justice Mazhar asked, to which Siddiqui replied that such MNAs-elect have to join a party within three days of the notification of their success.

Justice Minallah then asked, “If a political party does not have an electoral symbol, will its candidates lose their right to represent [their party]?”

The counsel responded: “A political party can become a parliamentary party after contesting the [general] elections. Another situation is that a political party does not take part in elections but winning independent lawmakers join that party.”

Here, Justice Shah asked under what formula reserved seats were distributed among political parties. “Would a political party get reserved seats according to the seats it has won or can it also get more [than its share]?” he asked.

Faisal Siddiqui answered, “Any political party, under any circumstances, cannot get more than its share of reserved seats.”

Justice Minallah observed that a political party could only get reserved seats according to the number of general seats it had won.

“Where is it written in the law that the remaining [reserved] seats should be distributed among the same political parties?” Justice Shah asked.

“We have to protect the public mandate. The real issue is of the public mandate,” he observed.

Justice Minallah then asked, “Where is it written in the law that a political party cannot contest elections upon not receiving an electoral symbol?”

Advocate Salman Akram Raja, who contested the Feb 8 polls as a PTI-backed independent, recalled that the same question had been asked in a court before the elections.

“One thing is decided — a party would only get reserved seats according to the representation it has [in the assemblies],” Justice Minallah remarked.

“How is it possible that someone’s mandate is handed over to someone else?” Justice Shah wondered.

This led to the court summoning the ECP officials.

When the hearing resumed after a short break, the AGP Mansoor Usman Awan and the ECP’s lawyer Sikandar Bashir Mohmand appeared before the court.

Justice Shah asked if distributed seats could be reallocated. “The second question is that the reserved seats were distributed so the House is complete. Where is the mistake in this?”

AGP Awan then said that no candidate had joined a political party.

“Can seats belonging to the independent candidates be distributed among other parties?” Justice Shah wondered. “The Constitution of Pakistan also begins in this manner that affairs will be performed according to public aspirations,” he observed.

The judge went on to ask if the reserved seats could be “redistributed in the second stage” while Justice Minallah asked what should be done if any further reserved seats were left unallocated.

Here, Justice Shah, while noting that political parties could get their deserved share of reserved seats, again asked how they could also be allocated other seats.

“Can other remaining reserved seats also be distributed to them? Is there anything like that in the law?” he asked.

“If there is nothing as such in the law, then isn’t doing so against the Constitutional scheme?” Justice Shah asked AGP Awan.

Here, Justice Mazhar asked whether the ECP had not given the unallocated reserved seats to other political parties under its suo motu powers.

“What cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly either,” Justice Minallah remarked. “Is it right to ignore a political party’s mandate in an indirect manner?” he asked.

The ECP law DG contended before the court that a political party was defined as a party that had contested elections on an electoral symbol, adding that it must be registered.

Here, Justice Minallah noted that the ECP allocated the reserved seats to other political parties “without giving any reasonable explanation”.

Upon the ECP official seeking a few more seconds to complete his arguments, Justice Minallah quipped that the court was ready to give him hours.

“We are accepting the case for hearing,” Justice Shah said, adding that the apex court was also suspending the earlier ECP and PHC decisions.

However, the judge highlighted that the verdicts’ suspension was limited to the allocation of the remaining reserved seats, which had been distributed among three other political parties. Later on the court adjourned the further hearing on the petitions till 3rd June.

The court in its written order said that since the questions under consideration require constitutional interpretation, the matter be placed before the Committee under Section 4 of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023 for constitution of a larger bench to hear the appeals.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah remarked that the court will hear the matter on day to day basis, no adjournment will be awarded and matter will be decided within a month.