The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court hearing the case pertaining to deferring the elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was dissolved on Thursday after one of the justices refused to hear it.
Justice Amin-Ud-Din has declined to sit on the apex court bench, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial. “After yesterday’s judgement, I recuse myself from hearing the case,” Justice Amin said.
The apex court judge referred to a judgement, authored by himself and Justice Qazi Faez Isa, issued a day earlier, noting that the chief justice of Pakistan did not have the power to make special benches or decide its members, and said that all hearings based on suo motu notices and cases of constitutional significance — under Article 184(3) — should be postponed until they are legislated upon.
Earlier, the Supreme Court (SC) was due to conduct the fourth hearing of the case against the postponement of elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) on Thursday. A five-member larger SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, was to conduct the hearing at 12:00 noon instead of 11:30am.
The original bench — which had conducted three hearings on the PTI petition — was constituted by CJP Umar Ata Bandial. It was headed by the CJP himself and included Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Amin.
The arguments of Ali Zafar, lawyer for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and those of Sujeel Swati, lawyer for the election commission, have been completed during Wednesday’s hearing. Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan was to continue his arguments on Thursday.
Lawyers for the caretaker governments in both the provinces and the KP governor were also due to present their arguments. Lawyers for other parties including Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) were also on schedule to submit their arguments.
It is to be noted here that the apex court had sought a written assurance from the PTI to reduce the political temperature. The court had also sought replies from the interior and defence ministries regarding the improvement in political atmosphere.
During Wednesday’s proceedings, the March 1 Supreme Court verdict regarding elections in Punjab and KP became a bone of contention among top apex court judges, as Justice Mandokhail, while sticking to his guns, wondered about the “order of the court” in the suo motu proceedings.
To date, no ‘order of the court’ has been released and in the absence of such an order, how could April 30 be announced as the election date or its extension till October 8, Justice Mandokhail remarked.
In case of a split decision, the order of the court explains, in the end, the “real order” and which judgement was in majority or in minority, Justice Mandokhail observed, adding even if we summoned the case file, one will find out there was no order of the court. Meanwhile, Justice Akhtar wondered how the “minority could claim to be in majority when the March 1 short order was signed by all five judges”.
Justice Mandokhail wondered whether the note issued by Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Athar Minallah had vanished or whether the CJP removed them from the bench. But the CJP observed that “whatever happens behind the chambers should be kept among ourselves”.