Home Latest News Supreme Court to Resume Hearing Reserved Seats Case on June 24

Supreme Court to Resume Hearing Reserved Seats Case on June 24

Justice Akhtar blames ‘cascading’ series of legal errors by ECP for triggering controversy over reserved seats in Parliament

by Staff Report
Supreme Court of Pakistan

File photo. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

A full court 13-member bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned until June 24 proceedings into a Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) petition on reserved seats in Parliament, with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa observing none of these issues would arise if the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had conducted intra-party polls in a timely manner.

The SIC petition is seeking the annulment of an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) decision to deny the party any share of reserved seats in Parliament, and their distribution amongst all other parliamentary parties. Apart from the CJP, the bench comprises Justices Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Munib Akhtar, Yahya Afridi, Aminuddin Khan, Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Ayesha Malik, Athar Minallah, Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Shahid Waheed, Irfan Saadat Khan and Naeem Akhtar Afghan. Justice Musarat Hilail is not part of a bench due to health concerns.

PTI-backed independents decided to join the SIC after the Feb. 8 general elections and sought their share in the reserved seats. However, the ECP deemed that the SIC was not a “parliamentary” party, as it did not contest the polls or submit a list for reserved seats, and denied it the seats. An appeal against the decision in the Peshawar High Court validated the ECP’s stance. The SIC then approached the Supreme Court, a three-member bench of which suspended the PHC ruling and sought the formation of a larger bench to decide the matter.

In the first hearing on Monday, the court witnessed some differences of opinion among the judges, with a segment blaming the Supreme Court ruling denying the PTI its electoral symbol for the issue, while others questioned why PTI lawmakers had opted to join the SIC rather than their own party after winning the elections.

In today’s hearing, SIC lawyer Faisal Siddiqui admitted that the SIC didn’t contest the elections as a party, but said the independent candidates who did had submitted a list for reserved seats as the PTI. He also argued the SIC had submitted a list of candidates for reserved seats, but this was rejected by the ECP because it was not deemed a parliamentary party.

Referring to case record, the CJP noted the SIC had shown itself as a parliamentary political party on two occasions and a political party on one. To this, Siddiqui said a political party could also be a parliamentary political party. “The Constitution differentiates between a parliamentary political party and a political party,” observed the CJP. Siddiqui said the SIC was a political party prior to the polls and had become a “parliamentary political party” after when independents joined it.

The lawyer also argued that the core problem had arisen because of the Supreme Court validating the ECP decision to deny the PTI its electoral symbol. To this, the CJP said the entire issue would not exist if the PTI had conducted intra-party polls. “Don’t blame everything on the SC,” he remarked, adding the PTI had deprived its members of democracy. “If you want to talk about democracy, then follow it to the letter,” he said.

Justice Akhtar, meanwhile, recalled that the independent candidates who joined the SIC had shown themselves as belonging to the PTI and any candidate who portrays himself as belonging to a party would be considered to be affiliated with it. A true independent candidate, he remarked, would submit an affidavit stating they are not affiliated with any political party. “How can the ECP’s law declare PTI’s candidates as independents,” he questioned. To his observation that the controversy stemmed from the withdrawal of the PTI’s election symbol, the CJP said the PTI should have challenged this point.

“Why did you not ask for the bat as an independent candidate,” he asked Siddiqui. “All independent candidates cannot ask for bat,” the counsel replied, recalling Salman Akram Raja had filed a petition requesting the ECP to declare him a PTI candidate but this was dismissed.

“You should’ve at least tried to secure the bat symbol. The SC would then would have seen whether it was to be allotted to you or not,” the CJP said. Justice Akhtar, however, maintained “cascading series of errors of law” by the ECP had forced the issue.

The CJP at one point noted PTI candidates who contested as independents could not join the SIC if they were members of the PTI. Justice Ayesha then pointed out that since the ECP had allowed them to contest, they had then joined a political party (the SIC) as independents.

Justice Minallah, meanwhile, observed that the court must consider the voters’ rights and lamented over the PTI’s complaints of lacking a level playing field. To this, the CJP said this was not the matter before the court at this juncture.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment