Level Playing Field: PTI Asks SC To Initiate Contempt Proceedings Against ECP

Top court urged to issue directions to ensure party's leaders and workers along with proposers and seconders of candidates are not harassed

Level Playing Field: PTI Asks SC To Initiate Contempt Proceedings Against ECP

The PTI on Tuesday filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking contempt of court proceedings against the ECP and other executive functionaries for allegedly violating court orders to afford a level playing field to political parties in the upcoming general elections. 

The petition was filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and counsel Shoaib Shaheen on behalf of party Chairman Gohar Ali Khan. It listed the Federal Interior Secretary Aftab Akbar Durrani, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Omar Hamid Khan, chief secretaries and inspector generals (IG) of police of the four provinces. 

In the petition, Shaheen told the top court that the authorities were concertedly acting against PTI and its members.  

It stated that the constitution bound the ECP to take action and that it has been empowered to issue orders to the relevant authorities, which ensures the conduct of impartial and transparent elections with a level playing field for all political parties.

Instead, the petition alleged that the ECP was turning a blind to the open injustice the PTI was facing. The petition added that the ECP had become party to the unfortunate mistreatment of the party. 

Last week, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by acting chief justice Sardar Tariq Masood, directed the ECP to address PTI's reservations regarding the lack of a level playing field in the upcoming general elections.

PTI claimed that despite the clear and unambiguous directions of the top court, the ECP has failed to implement these directions in letter and spirit. It contended that the Commission's failure to address the grievances of PTI was unprecedented and unbecoming, which is clear contempt of court. 

"Under Article 218(3) and Article 220 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, it is the constitutional responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold and conduct free and fair elections and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law," the petition noted.

"The arresting, harassing and snatching of nomination forms obtained from different returning officers from the workers and leaders of PTI is illegal, unlawful, and against the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973," the PTI further stated. 

"Furthermore, the non-adherence to the orders of this Court is a clear contempt of the Court," it added. 

The petition also attached a letter the provincial election commissioner had allegedly sent to the Punjab chief secretary and IGP, which the PTI claimed was an admission of unconstitutional steps taken by the Punjab Police and returning officers.

It further alleged that the Punjab IGP was the mastermind of all unconstitutional acts against the PTI. 

The party also contended that it was being illegally dragged into litigation while its grievances have not been redressed for a long time. 

PTI further contended that the conduct of the respondents was contemptuous and, as such, requires indulgence of the top court by awarding appropriate punishment to the respondents along with execution orders.

"It is most pertinent to mention that the mere fact that the petitioner has to constantly knock on the doors of the courts to attain justice, fairness and a level playing field for the elections is more than sufficient evidence that the Respondent No.02 (ECP) has miserably failed to do its job." 

"The petitioner feels no joy in filing daily petitions for the redressal of their grievances, but the conduct of the ECP  and the respondents is jeopardising the most important aspect of democracy, which is free and fair elections." 

The PTI urged the apex court to initiate contempt proceedings against the respondents for non-compliance with the December 22 order. 

PTI asked the Supreme Court to issue directions to the ECP to take action against the culprits under section 55, 184, 186,187 and 188 of the Election Act 2017.

It prayed that the court would issue necessary directions and appropriate orders so that PTI candidates, workers, and leaders are not arrested and are allowed to participate in the election process, and their proposers and seconders may not be harassed in any manner.

The petition also requested that the top court issue orders to ensure that the ROs and district returning officers (DROs) carry out their assigned duties in a neutral manner.

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