By Justice Katju, former judge, Indian Supreme Court, and Amile Gulzar, advocate, Lahore
This article has been written jointly by the authors, who belong to the field of law. Neither of us are politicians, or affiliated to any political party in Pakistan. We have written it only because we want the rule of law to prevail in Pakistan, and feel deeply disturbed by recent developments which show that the law is being flagrantly violated.
Article 224(2) of the Pakistan Constitution states :
” When the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly is dissolved, a general election to the Assembly shall be held within a period of ninety days after the dissolution, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than fourteen days after the conclusion of the polls ”.
This provision is crystal clear, and there was no scope for arguments about it. Yet to our surprise, a matter which could and should have been disposed off speedily ( as there was really nothing to argue ), was permitted to be argued for several days by the Pakistan Supreme Court.
The Punjab Provincial Assembly had been dissolved on 18th January, 2023, hence fresh elections had to be held by 18th April. However, the Election Commission of Pakistan, on the pretext that there was no money to hold the elections, and that there was a problem of security, postponed it to 8th October.
This was clearly violative of Article 224(2), as that provision does not say that the elections can be postponed on these grounds. Moreover, these were specious and frivolous excuses, and were rightly not accepted by the Supreme Court, which ultimately directed that the elections be held on 14th May.
However, regrettably the Court permitted arguments for 5 days before it reached its verdict, when the matter could and should have been disposed off in 5 minutes, as mentioned before, since Article 224(2) was clear.
Instead of complying with this verdict and releasing funds for holding the elections, as directed by the Court, the PDM Govt has sent the matter to Parliament, which in turn has referred it to a select committee. It is evident that these are pretexts and dilatory tactics for refusing to pay to the ECP the funds needed to hold elections. It seems obvious that the Govt has no intention of permitting holding of the elections, since opinion polls show that the PDM will be badly defeated.
However, this is clear contempt of court, and it would be interesting to see whether the precedent of Yusuf Raza Gilani’s sacking will be followed in the present case, or some other order passed. At any event, the Court must show that violation of the Constitution and court orders will not be tolerated, otherwise the rule of law will collapse and chaos and jungle raj set in.