LHC seeks reply on plea challenging ECP powers

Petition seeking appointment of most senior general as COAS dismissed

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday sought replies from federal and Punjab governments on a petition challenging the vires of the Section 10 of the Election Act, 2017.

Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh passed the order on a plea moved by Mian Shabbir Ismail and adjourned further hearing till October 18.

During the proceedings, Advocate Azhar Siddique represented the petitioner and submitted that under Article 204 of the Constitution, the court can punish any person for contempt and the word “court” is defined as the Supreme Court or the high court.

He argued that under the sub-article of 204, exercise of power conferred on the court by Article 204 might be regulated by law. “In pursuance of the aforesaid article, the Contempt of Court Ordinance (2003) was promulgated, which is a complete code and provides procedure and mechanism to ensure the right to a fair trial, including the right to appeal before a higher forum.”

Advocate Azhar argued that through impugned Section 10, only the powers of the high court under the ordinance was conferred upon the Election Commission and the commissioner, whereas no other procedure and mechanism was prescribed to ensure a fair trial as well as the right to appeal. The powers of the courts could not be delegated to the administrative authorities such as the election commission, he contended.

Advocate Azhar also contended that the court powers delegated to the Election Commission was not only contrary to Article 10-A of the constitution but also runs against the provision of the independence of judiciary under Article 175 of the constitution.

Separately, the LHC on Wednesday directed a federal law officer to submit a written reply today (Thursday) on a petition challenging the collection of fuel adjustment charges in electricity bills.

Also, the court dismissed for being non-maintainable a petition seeking the appointment of the senior most general as the next chief of army staff (COAS). The court took up the petition as an objection case.

Muhammad Ali, a local citizen, had filed the petition. Additional Attorney General Muhammad Javed Awan appeared before the court and said that the petition was not maintainable. He asked the court to dismiss the petition for being non-maintainable, pleading that the admissibility of the petition would encourage others to move such pleas.

Meanwhile, the court sought a reply from the Punjab government within a week challenging the removal of Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi as the Muttahida Ulema Board chairman.

Justice Shahid Jamil Khan heard the petition filed by Ashrafi.

The counsel for the petitioner argued before the court that his client was appointed as the chairman of the board on Feb 19, 2019 and was reappointed to the post on March 31, 2022. He submitted that as per law, the chairman of the board could not be removed till the completion of the term.

The counsel requested the court to set aside the notification for being illegal and issue a stay order until a final decision in the case.

The court declined the request to issue a stay order, but directed a provincial law officer to inform the court under which law the appointment of the chairman of the board was made.