The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ruled that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should seek relief from the court if executive authorities refuse to assist the commission in fulfilling its duties to hold fair elections. The court’s ruling came in response to a case where the ECP had appointed a date for elections, which was later disregarded by the court and a new date was set. The court also declared a previous notification by the ECP delaying elections as unconstitutional.
In the detailed judgment, Justice Munib Akhtar observed that the ECP should approach the Supreme Court for the relief of a writ of mandamus. The judgment explained that the ECP has a duty to hold fair elections, but this duty does not give the commission power over other constitutional provisions. Democracy relies on elections, but giving the ECP power to interfere with the electoral process would undermine democracy itself.
The verdict clarified that the power to advise dissolution of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies lies with the prime minister and chief ministers, respectively. If the ECP were given the power to hold all elections on the same day, it would negate this constitutional power.
The judgment emphasized that Article 218(3) does not grant the ECP the power to override other constitutional provisions relating to elections. The ECP can only make alterations to the election program if necessary for the purposes of the Election Act 2017. The time period for holding general elections cannot be extended by the ECP.
In summary, the judgment highlights that the ECP is not the master but a forum chosen by the Constitution to perform the task of holding elections. The ECP should seek legal remedies rather than making unlawful orders. The constitutional powers of other authorities should not be diminished by giving excessive power to the ECP.
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