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SC to Hear Together Pleas against Review of Judgments Law, Punjab Polls Order

Proceedings adjourned until June 13, with judges questioning whether ECP petition falls under ambit of old laws or the new legislation

by Staff Report

Farooq Naeem—AFP

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday clubbed together pleas challenging the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act 2023 with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s petition seeking a review of the court’s April 4 order to hold elections in Punjab on May 14.

Taking up the petitions, a three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial—and comprising Justices Ijazul Ahsan and Munib Akhtar—remarked that as several pleas had been submitted against the new law, it had been decided to hear them all with the ECP petition. During the last hearing, the court had noted that the new law applied to the ECP petition, which was seeking a review of a judgment issued under Article 184(3).

The court then issued notices to the federal government, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan, President Arif Alvi, the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry and the Senate Secretariat and adjourned the hearing until June 13.

During the proceedings, PTI lawyer Ali Zafar was summoned to the rostrum and asked to outline his grievances with the review of judgments law. “The new law is inconsistent with the Constitution and is a continuation of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023,” he claimed and urged the court to continue hearing the ECP’s review petition as he had prepared arguments against it. “The court can simultaneously also hear pleas against the review of judgments law. If the review point persists, a larger bench can be constituted,” he added.

Justice Akhtar, however, remarked that if the law were considered to apply on the ECP petition, the electoral body’s lawyer would have to present his arguments once again before a larger bench. “How can the court continue hearing the Punjab polls case if the Supreme Court (Review of Judgments and Orders) Act, 2023 has come into force? Is the new law not applicable to this case? Do you think the ECP’s petition should be heard as per the old law?” he asked Zafar, who said he believed it should be heard according to the old laws.

“This is not a brand new case,” Justice Bandial said. “This is an appeal against a decision that was taken previously and appeals have several limitations,” he said, adding that enough time had already been spent on arguments and the process would need to start afresh if a larger bench were formed.

“This matter is linked to a national issue,” he remarked, reiterating that the order for polls on May 14 could not be withdrawn and elections within 90 days of an assembly’s dissolution was a constitutional requirement. “Everyone agrees with the Constitution, but not everyone is clear on enforcing the Constitution,” he said.

As is routine for hearings of the apex court, the proceedings went off on a tangent, with the CJP questioning why the ruling coalition had protested in front of the Supreme Court last month. “What was the purpose of that protest?” he asked. “The responsibility of dispensing justice is of Maula Karim [God],” he said, adding anyone who interfered in the court’s desire to ensure the rights of the people would suffer “consequences.”

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