Election date suo motu: Ruling parties request SC to form full court

ISLAMABAD (Agencies): Three ruling coalition parties — Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to form a full court to hear the suo motu notice taken by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on the delay in the announcement of a date for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The request was made in a joint statement read out by lawyer Farooq H Naek, on behalf of the three parties when the nine-member bench resumed the hearing of the suo motu notice today. The PPP lawyer also requested Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi to recuse themselves from the nine-member bench currently hearing the suo motu notice.
The bench is headed by CJP Bandial and comprises Justice Ahsan, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah. At the outset of today’s hearing, the attorney general told the court that they had not received the copy of the court order which is why all parties did not appear today.
At this, CJP Bandial remarked that the purpose of today’s hearing was to inform the relevant authorities about the suo motu notice. On this point, Naek came before the bench and read out the joint statement of PPP, JUI-F and PML-N regarding their objections about the bench. The lawyer said that both the judges had made their observations on the matter when they heard Ghulam Mehmood Dogar’s plea regarding his removal as Lahore police chief.
The counsel also shared the dissenting note of Justice Mandokhail. Naek stated that they were objecting to the two judges’ inclusion in the “interest of justice, fair play and to protect the fundamental right to a fair trial and due process as guaranteed under Article 10A”.
On this, Justice Minallah asked the lawyer if he felt there was a need to form a full court for the case. “Matter of election is of public [importance] there should be full court on this,” responded Naek and formally appealed for a full court to hear the suo motu notice on the delay in elections. Meanwhile, the counsel for Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid said that the judiciary is being ridiculed on social media since yesterday and urged the court to look into this matter.
At this, CJP Bandial said that this matter will be looked into later. “Prepare for the case,” the CJP told the attorney general. However, Naek interjected that the matter pertaining to the bench formation and the objections surrounding it should be resolved first. “The decision was made on February 16 and the notice was taken on February 22,” said the CJP, adding that taking suo motu notice falls under the chief justice’s jurisdiction. He said that the petitions by Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly speakers are clubbed with the suo motu.
The court is also looking into the questions raised in the petitions filed by the speakers, he added. Justice Mandokhail said that political matters should be resolved in the Parliament. “Tell your political parties why should the court hear these cases?” he added. At this, the PPP’s lawyer said that he will seek instructions from his party on this matter. “Today the Constitution knocked on our doors which is why we took the suo motu notice,” remarked the CJP as he adjourned the hearing till Monday 11:30am.