SC warns of consequences for flouting Constitution
24 October, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday warned the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of consequences for violating the Constitution as the electoral body contended that the local bodies (LB) polls were not possible on the dates assigned to the provinces.
Though the provinces assured the SC of holding the LB elections by December 7, the ECP stated that there were four categories of activities to be carried out that would take four months.
ECP Counsel Muhamnmad Akram Sheikh told the court that the three provinces gave the dates for holding the LB elections by November 27 and December 7 just to please the apex court. He said the provinces could not announce the date for holding the elections without the consent of ECP.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Gulzar Ahmed resumed hearing into the LB polls case.
A concise statement, approved by the ECP, was submitted before the court mentioning that there were four categories of activities to be carried out by the ECP, the provinces, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) and other concerned.
The process includes completion of delimitation, carryingout necessary amendments in laws, rules by the provinces and door-to-door verification of voters by the ECP, Nadra and provinces to prepare the fresh electoral rolls; procurement of election materials by the ECP and procurement of paper and printing ballot papers by the PCP/PSPC press.
That, with a view to accelerating the process, it is proposed that all these activities be started simultaneously and completed within a period of four months after which the ECP would be in a position to issue the election schedule for all the four provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), says the concise statement, submitted by the counsel for the ECP.
The concise statement further elaborated that no provincial legislature could command or entrust one or more of the provincial functions or duties upon the ECP as it would violate the constitutional provisions, including articles 213 to 218 of the Constitution.
It informed the court whichever province provided the aforesaid prerequisites along with a formal request for holding the elections in that province, the ECP would commence the process of elections then and there and for that matter, the commission needed at least 30 days.
The court was informed that for the general elections 2013, the ECP had printed 180 million ballot papers and faced difficulties in supplying the ballot papers to the returning officers in the available time of 20 days whereas for the conduct of local government elections, the ECP would have to print and distribute approximately 600 million ballot papers.
"For the sake of argument, if we take the November 7, 2013 as thecut-off date for completion of all aforesaid pre-requisites, there will be only 30 days available with the commission to hold the elections if December 7 is fixed as the date of polls," it said.
Earlier, during the course of hearing, the governments of Sindh, Balochistan and the Punjab assured the SC of holding the LB elections.
Additional Advocate General Sindh informed the apex court that the provincial government was ready to hold the LB elections on November 27 while Advocates General of Balochistan and Punjab told the apex court that their provincial governments would be ready to hold the LB elections on December 7.
The additional advocate general Balochistan told the court that the process of delimitation had been completed and they were ready to hold the local government elections on December 7. Muhammad Akram Sheikh, the counsel for the ECP, however, told the court that the province had completed delimitation under the 1998 census adding that if elections were held under the said census, millions of fresh voters would be deprived of voting in the province.
He contended that the provinces could only announce the date for holding the local bodies polls with the consensus of the ECP.
"How could the provinces announce the date for the local bodies polls without consultation with the ECP," he questioned but added that the provinces had announced the date just to please the court. At this, the chief justice asked the learned counsel to abstain from saying such things.
Advocate General Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Abdul Latif Yousafzai informed the court that legislation for replacing the union councils with village councils would be passed by the provincial assembly in the current session. He contended that holding the LB elections was the top priority of the provincial government.
The CJ, however, asked him if the provincial assembly session continued for one month, then what would be done. The CJ said that holding the LB elections was the constitutional responsibility of the governments.
Latif Yousafzai assured the CJ that the law would be passed during the current session adding that the draft for the legislation was already submitted to the provincial assembly.
Additional Attorney General Shah Khawar informed the court that legislation for holding the local government election in the Islamabad Capital Territory had already been drafted and as per requirement of rules of business, it would be put before the cabinet for approval.
"Tell us why you are not following the Constitution," the CJ asked. Shah Khawar replied that no doubt after the insertion of Article 140A under the 18th Constitutional Amendment, it was mandatory upon the provinces to ensure the holding of LB elections but the present government came to power recently and had resolved to implement the orders of the court in letter and spirit and had made many legislations.
"Show us what legislation you have made so far," the CJ asked Shah Khawar, pointing out that the Federal Service Tribunal (FST) was still not functioning. He said none from the government side had yet assured of holding the LB elections.
"The man who is giving you instructions – does he know the consequences of not adhering to the Constitution," the CJ asked Shah Khawar.Shah Khawar, however, submitted that non-compliance with the court's order was not deliberate adding that the government was committed to implementing the court's order.
"Violation is violation," the CJ remarked. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja observed that restraint was shown before November 3 but now the rules of law and supremacy of the Constitution would not be compromised. "But we don't have any such intention to violate the law and Constitution," Shah Khawar replied.
Meanwhile, the court summoned Attorney General Munir A Malik over the matter of conducting polls in the federal capital and to explain as to why the law and Constitution were not being implemented and adjourned the hearing till October 25.