SC Returns PTI Petitions Challenging Census 2023

Registrar raises seven objections on the petition and the laws it sought to invoke for their case

SC Returns PTI Petitions Challenging Census 2023

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Thursday suffered a shock as its petition against the decision of the Council Of Common Interest (CCI) to ratify the digital census 2023, was returned by the Supreme Court with objections.

The PTI had filed a petition against the 'unanimous decision' undertaken by the prime minister and chief ministers of the four provinces to approve the Digital Census 2023 for publication. Approved in the last days of the outgoing Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) government, the publication of the census results on  August 7, 2023, triggered relevant clauses in the law which bound the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold afresh the process of delimiting constituencies in the country before polls could be held. However, a schedule subsequently issued by the ECP showed that the process would take around four months to complete. While the schedule was later revised and the deadline to complete the delimitation process was reduced by 15 days, it would still mean that the process would take longer than the 90 days that the government has available to conduct fresh polls after the dissolution of the assemblies.

Hence, there is a possibility that the upcoming general elections will be delayed beyond the constitutionally identified time period, with officials of the caretaker government, political parties and political experts estimating that elections will not be possible before February 2024 at the latest.

In its letter raising objections on the PTI petition, the Supreme Court's Registrar, via the Assistant Registrar (Civil-II), noted that the PTI had challenged the August 5, 2023, decision of the CCI under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.

Article 184: Original Jurisdiction of Supreme Court

(3) Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 199, the Supreme Court shall, if it considers that a question of public importance concerning the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II is involved, have the power to make an order of the nature mentioned in the said Article.

The PTI urged the court to exercise its jurisdiction under the law and declare the decision of the CCI as illegal, unlawful and void, as should the subsequent notification issued by the Bureau of Statistics to publish the census "in the interest of justice."

The SC Registrar raised seven objections against the petition. The first one noted that the petitioners had failed to point out as to what questions of public importance in the case are involved regarding the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution to directly invoke the Supreme Court's jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

It continued that the petition lacked the ingredients for invoking the extraordinary jurisdiction of this Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

The registrar noted that PTI had listed the President of Pakistan as a respondent when he cannot be impleaded as a party under Article 248 of the Constitution.

Further, it said that the notices issued to the respondents did not mention for what purpose they were being put on notice in this Constitutional Petition filed before this court.

It noted that the petitioners had not approached any other appropriate forum available under the law to seek relief before filing the matter in the Supreme Court and had not provided any justification for moving the apex court.

It further noted that the petition was not specific on what it sought as multiple asks had been made in a Constitution petition.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain