Supreme Court returns PTI plea seeking elections within 90 days

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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) petition seeking nationwide elections in the country within 90 days was returned by the registrar of the Supreme Court with objections on Thursday.

The plea was returned as the former ruling failed to approach the relevant forums before coming to the apex court.

The PTI had also included President Arif Alvi as a respondent but the registrar was of the view that the head of the state cannot be made part of the petition under Article 248.

“The petition did not mention which fundamental right of the petitioner was violated. The petition does not meet the requirements seeking the court’s intervention under Article 184/3,” the registrar of the Supreme Court further said.

Last month, the PTI had moved the top court seeking its directives to hold general elections in the country within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly.

The petitioner, who is PTI’s Secretary General Omar Ayyub, requested the apex court to direct President Alvi to give a date for the polls and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to issue an election schedule accordingly.

The petition was filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution prays to declare as illegal and void ab initio the decision of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) dated August 5, 2023, approving the census.

This was the second petition filed with the apex court.

Earlier, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Abid S Zubairi had filed the same petition in the apex court.

Read more: PTI to move Supreme Court over army, secrets bills signing controversy

Filed through Barrister Ali Zafar, the PTI petition also seeks that the notification by the Bureau of Statistics dated August 8, 2023, be declared illegal, unlawful, and void ab initio, while the delimitation exercise proposed to be taken by the ECP, dated August 17, 2023, be declared illegal, unlawful, and void ab initio as well.

“Section 57(1) of the Election Act, 2017, providing that the date of elections is to be fixed by the ECP may be declared to be ultra vires the Constitution and being contrary to Articles 48(5)(a), 58(1), 105(3)(a), 112(1), and 224,” wherein it is stated that the president or governor is to set the date of elections after dissolution by them on the advice of the prime minister or chief minister, the PTI had prayed.

The PTI had made the ECP, the federation, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, the Council of Common Interest (CCI), the chief secretaries of Punjab, Khyber, Sindh, Balochistan, and other respondents.

The PTI had further prayed to the apex court that the Sindh governor may also be required to announce the date of elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the Sindh Assembly and the ECP be directed to issue the election schedule accordingly, and same for the Balochistan province.

Meanwhile, the elections to the Punjab and KP assemblies may be held according to the judgments of this court and within a time frame fixed by the court, it had added.

The PTI had submitted that, vexatiously, the census is being used by the ECP as an excuse to delay the elections to the National Assembly, as shown by the ECP in its reply dated August 24, 2023, to the letter of the president dated August 23, 2023.

A day earlier, President Alvi had suggested a cut-off date for the holding of polls in a letter to the chief election commissioner (CEC). He said that in the light of Article 48(5) of the Constitution, he has the authority and mandate “to appoint a date not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution [of assemblies], for holding of a general election to the assembly.”

The president had said that the National Assembly was dissolved by him on the advice of the then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif on August 9, 2023.

[…] in terms of Article 48(5) the general election to the National Assembly should be held by the eighty-ninth day of the date of dissolution of the National Assembly, i.e. Monday 6th Day of November 2023,” the letter had stated.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led (PML-N) coalition government dissolved the National Assembly on August 9 while the Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were also prematurely dissolved to allow the electoral authority to hold elections in the country within 90 days instead of 60 days if the legislature completed its constitutional tenure.

If the elections are to be held within the 90-day limit, then the polls are due on November 9, 2023.

However, before dissolving the assemblies the coalition government in a Council of Common Interest (CCI) meeting had unanimously approved the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023.

According to Article 51 (5) of the Constitution, the seats of the National Assembly to each province and the federal capital shall be allocated on the basis of population as per the new census.

Following CCI’s approval, the ECP on August 17 announced the schedule of new delimitations which exceeded the November 9th 90-day constitutional limit, almost making sure that the elections are likely to be held post the 90-day mark.

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