Legally correct – 05 Apr 2023

Federal cabinet was pretty quick to give its word on the top court verdict

It was a defining moment for the rule of law and Constitution in the country as a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, stood its ground and quashed all attempts to delay election to the dissolved legislature of Punjab. The top court – while declaring the ECP’s postponement of the election to October 8 unconstitutional – yesterday ruled that election to the Punjab Assembly would be held on May 14 while the same issue related to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly can be raised at “relevant forum”.

An unrelenting bench of the apex court repudiated excuses of cash crunch and security fears; shunned distracting calls for the formation of a full court to deal with the poll delay case; rubbished questions about moral authority of a verdict by a diminished three-member bench; and addressed the ‘4/3 or 3/2’ debate with fitting legal explanation; to reach a unanimous judgement that meets the tenets of the Constitution in its true letter and spirit. There is no denying that any differing verdict could never have come without invoking the infamous doctrine of necessity in sheer negation of statutory norms and democratic traditions.

It’s, however, unfortunate that the ruling coalition has decided against respectfully bowing to what is a legally binding judgment and is still looking to exploit any technical recourse in the legal framework to delay the election to the two dissolved assemblies. The federal cabinet was pretty quick to give its word on the top court verdict, describing it as “inapplicable” and “in contravention of the Constitution”. The intentions are thus pretty clear that the incumbents would resort to all and any means in an illegitimate attempt to make a legally correct decision look controversial.

The helmsmen are well advised that challenging the dictates of the Constitution and the writ of judiciary will only risk contempt of court charges, apart from deepening the prevailing politico-legal crisis that is already having a damaging effect on the economic situation of the country. The only go-to approach is to prepare for election and be ready to accept the people’s verdict in the spirit of democracy and constitutionalism.

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