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Supreme Court suspends PHC, ECP decisions depriving SIC of reserved seats

Court says only parts of verdict related to reserved seats have been suspended: Justice Mansoor wonders how reserved seats of party could be allotted to another: Larger bench matter referred to judges committee: Gohar says 78 members reaching assemblies on reserved seats not entitled to vote

By News Desk

May 6, 2024 11:46 AM


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Admitting the appeal filed by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) for the hearing, the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday suspended the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Peshawar High Court (PHC) verdicts, depriving the party of reserved seats in the national as well as in the provincial assemblies after February 8 general elections, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.   

A three-member bench of the SC, headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, and also comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, heard the SIC's appeal.

The court made it clear that it was suspending only those portions of the verdicts, which were related to the allotment of reserved seats to the SIC.

Justice Mansoor expressed surprise at how reserved seats belonging to a party could be allotted to other parties. “Parties can get seats in proportion to the seats they have won in the elections,” he added.

Addressing the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP), the judge asked when there was no such provision under the law, was not the distribution of reserved seats belonging to the SIC among other parties a violation of the constitution?    

Justice Athar Minallah remarked that what could not be done directly, could also not be done indirectly. “Not recognizing a party’s mandate indirectly is also not appropriate,” he said. 

The SC also referred the matter of the formation of a larger bench, as requested by the AGP, to a committee of judges.

Adjourning the case’s hearing until June 3, Justice Mansoor said the bench would hear the case from June 3 onwards on a daily basis.

Expressing jubilation over the apex court’s today’s judgment, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan said that the PTI-backed independent candidates after winning the elections had joined the SIC. “Therefore, the party was entitled to these seats, which sadly were distributed among other parties,” he said, adding, “The SC in its today’s ruling has also said that those 78 members who have reached the assemblies on these seats will not be able to cast their votes during voting on any bill.”

“Hence today our point of view that these members are not entitled to vote in the presidential or any other election stands vindicated,” he said emphatically. 

Barrister said today the apex court was seized with the hearing of two petitions filed by the SIC, while the third petition had been filed by Kanwal Shauzab.

These petitions, the PTI chairman went on to say, were against the ECP’s decision in which it had deprived the SIC of reserved seats; 67 for women and 11 for minorities and had allotted these to another party.  

“Later, the PHC had upheld the ECP’s decision,” he said, adding, “Throughout that period, our stance has been that an unconstitutional step has been taken against the SIC.”

The election commission’s decision, the PTI chairman reiterated was unconstitutional. “As per the constitution, no party can be given reserved seats more than the seats it has won,” the barrister said.    

Earlier, expressing surprise at how a mandate given by the people to a political party could be given to other parties, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court (SC) directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) officials and the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP) to reach the apex court immediately.

During the hearing of the appeal filed by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) against the decisions given by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Peshawar High Court (PHC), depriving the party of reserved seats in the National and provincial assemblies, Justice Mansoor said that the court wanted to hear the case on a daily basis.  

The judge asked where in the constitution it was written that the reserved seats supposed to be given to a party would be distributed to other parties. “A political party can get reserved seats in proportion to the seats it has won in the elections,” he remarked.

Justice Athar Minallah asked where in the constitution a party, deprived of its election symbol, had been barred from contesting the elections. “One thing is certain, and that is a party will get reserved seats in proportion to the representation it has in the assemblies,” he said, and added, “For the first time in the country’s history, a large party was deprived of its symbol.”

Justice Mansoor made it clear that the bench was hearing the case under Article 185 of the constitution.

Responding to the federal government’s request for the constitution of a larger bench, the judge rejected it, saying the court would first decide whether the appeal was admissible for the hearing. “Once we decide that, we will also look into the request for a larger bench.”    

A five-member bench of the ECP, headed by the chief election commissioner, in its verdict dated March 4, 2024, had rejected the SIC’s petitions, seeking the allotment of reserved seats to the party.

The bench had reserved the verdict on these pleas on February 28.

 

 Reporter: Amanat Gishkori


News Desk


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