IHC restrains ECP from issuing verdict in Imran case

Violations of code of conduct

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) bench has issued a stay order restraining Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from issuing judgment in a matter regarding violations of ECP’s Code of Conduct (CoC) by PTI Chairman Imran Khan for participating in the election campaigns in Punjab.
ECP on February 6, 2017, too, had issued notices to Imran Khan for the violation elections Code of Conduct. Earlier, IHC bench comprising Justice Aamir Farooq had issued a stay order on May 4, 2017 but later, it was vacated due to the absence of the petitioner and his counsel due to their non appearance before the court.
Imran Khan’s counsel Babar Awan had requested the court to issue stay order that court granted. Under the election code of conduct by ECP, President, Prime Minister, Federal/Provincial Ministers, MNAs and MPAs could not participate in the election campaings during by elections.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan has challenged the ECP notifications regarding restrictions on political party heads, MNAs, MPAs to participate in the election campaign for bye-elections and consequential proceeding against him for the violation of the said notifications.
Legal counsel for Imran Khan, Babar Awan advocate had been arguing before the court that under the constitution no unreasonable restriction could be imposed on a person and any restriction should be according to law. This restriction is only Imran Khan specific as the treasury benches through announcement of development project could campaign for the same.
ECP notifications were violation of the fundamental rights and article 15, 16, 17 and 19 of the Constitutionof Pakistan. In his petition, Chairman PTI has cited ECP through its Chairman and Director General (Elections) of ECP as respondent. The petitioner has taken the plea that being head of a political party he addresses different campaigns for bye-elections throughout the country and it is his right guaranteed under article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan regarding peaceful assembly.
Imran Khan has submitted that his party “has a commendable record of holding peaceful and unarmed rallies, sit-ins for an unprecedented period of marathon 126 days, which proves the fact that the petitioner and his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf believes in Supremacy of law, Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 and public order.”
To the surprise of petitioner, ECP on April 16, May 7, 2015 issued notifications whereby initially restrictions were imposed on President, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, State Minister, Governors and Advisors to visit any area of any constituency or give any subscription or donation in such constituencies.
Later through a notification dated September 16, 2015 party heads, MNAs and MPAs were also included in this notification. Said notifications were challenged before a high court that declared these null & void. Later ECP filed appeals before Supreme Courtof Pakistan and apex court in September 2015 passed an interim order through which operation of the high court judgment was suspended and therefore the ECP notification were revived.
Supreme Court, however said that it did not authorize ECP to keep issuing such notifications in respect of other constituencies in future wherein elections are to be held or were being held.

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