While substantiating the recently filed presidential reference seeking the top court’s guidance over open ballot in the forthcoming Senate elections, Chief Legal Advisor of the federation contended on Monday that Supreme Court (SC) is constitutionally empowered to decide the matter in hand on the grounds that it evolves question of public importance.
At outset of the hearing of the matter before a 5-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) sought a week time to file concise statement, urging the court to declare the reference non-maintainable on the grounds that the government should resolve the matter through a constitutional amendment.
Talking to TLTP, representative of the JUI-F Kamran Murtaza, former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said, “Open ballot election matter has nothing to do with invoking advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court but requires the parliament to determine the issue within the parliament through constitutional amendment”.
In response to earlier directives of the court that any other party interested in being a part of the case could also file an application, senior parliamentarian of the PPP Raza Rabbani, two advocates of the Supreme Court Mudassar Hassan and Malik Qamar Afzal filed applications for impleadment in the matter.
Chief Provincial Office of the Sindh sought one week time to submit a concise statement in the matter whereas Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governments have already submitted replies favoring presidential reference.
On December 23, President Dr Arif Alvi had filed a 11-page reference in the Supreme Court under Article 186 of the Constitution relating to the advisory jurisdiction of the top court seeking its opinion on holding the upcoming elections for the Upper House of the Parliament through open ballot and show of hands. To which on January 4, the top court had issued notices to the advocates general of all four provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory, the speakers of all provincial assemblies, speaker of the National Assembly, chairman Senate and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), directing them to submit written synopses to the court.
Before arguments of Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan in the matter, the Chief Justice asked from the packed courtroom 1 if there is anybody else interested to become party and after finding no one’s response the adjudication took place.
As Khalid Javed Khan raised from seat to the rostrum, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed said while addressing AGP, “ Is he going to be sweet end”.
Responding to query of a member of the bench Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked how much time the principal law officer will take to complete arguments to which Khalid Javed Khan submitted that he will finish in three days saying he has finalized the synopsis of the case and intended to submit before the court.
To which Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked him to file the synopsis in the filing branch saying, “ We are interested to have concise statements of all parties of the case – it seems you are burning the midnight oil”.
Responding to a query of Justice Ijazul Ahsan during the course of proceedings, Khalid Javed Khan firmly expressed, “ There is no bar to contest election for an independent person”.
Delivering his arguments, the AGP contended that under Article 226 of the Constitution the court has exclusive jurisdiction to decide the scope and question maintainability of the matter in hand, adding the court can also comment on future legislation. He further submitted that presidential reference is admissible under Article 186 of the constitution of Pakistan. Responding to the court query he said the current matter doesn’t fall under subject to the constitution.
Later, the hearing was adjourned till January 13.