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Supreme Court Adjourns Punjab Polls Hearing Amid Review of Judgments Law

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan has adjourned the hearing of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) petition regarding the reconsideration of its April 4 order to hold elections for the Punjab Assembly on May 14. The adjournment came after Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan informed the court that a new law concerning the review of judgments had been enacted.

During the hearing, a three-member bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar, decided to postpone the proceedings until Thursday, June 1, shortly after they began.

The AGP raised objections to the bench, citing the Supreme Court (Review of Judgements and Orders) Bill 2023, which has become law after receiving the president’s assent. He submitted a notification signed by the president, confirming the enactment of the law.

The recently passed law aims to ensure the fundamental right to justice by providing for a “meaningful review” of the Supreme Court’s judgments and orders in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, as described in Article 184 of the Constitution.

During the hearing, the AGP highlighted that under the new law, the scope of review and appeal is now the same. He further argued that a larger bench should hear the review, objecting to the three-judge panel currently hearing the case.

Chief Justice Bandial mentioned that the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, which aims to curtail the chief justice’s suo motu powers, would also be heard on Thursday. He emphasized the need to review the jurisdiction of Article 184(3) of the Constitution and stated that the court’s decisions on this matter suggest various possibilities.

The chief justice also inquired whether the other party in the case, represented by PTI lawyer Ali Zafar, had been informed about the new law. The AGP informed the court that Zafar was on vacation, and the case would be heard in the presence of the other party.

Additionally, the chief justice discussed the court’s resumption of the hearing on petitions challenging the government-appointed judicial commission to investigate audio leaks. He emphasized the need to protect the freedom of the judiciary and expressed concerns about conducting matters secretly or based on undisclosed meetings.

The deadlock over holding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa emerged when the PTI dissolved its governments in these provinces earlier this year. According to the Constitution, once an assembly is dissolved, elections must be held within 90 days. However, the ECP and governors failed to announce a date for polls, leading to legal and constitutional disputes.

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