Chief election commissioner holds emergency meeting with top judges after LHC’s order on ROs

Chief election commissioner

ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja met with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa on Friday to discuss the implications of the Lahore High Court (LHC) order that struck down the polls body’s notification to hire the services of bureaucrats as returning officers (ROs) for the general election 2024.

The meeting, which took place in the Supreme Court, was also attended by Justice Sardar Tariq, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Attorney General Mansoor Usman.

The CEC informed the judges about LHC order, which suspended the notification of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hire the services of the bureaucracy for the elections.

The CJP also consulted with two senior judges before meeting the CEC and summoned the Attorney General to the meeting.

According to sources, the court is likely sit any time after the judges’ meeting, as the ECP has to release the election schedule by today or tomorrow.

The general election is scheduled to be held on February 8, 2024, but the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) challenged the decision of the ECP to hire the bureaucracy for the elections in the LHC.

On December 14, 2023, the LHC suspended the notification of the ECP and on December 15, 2023, it constituted a five-member larger bench headed by the LHC chief justice to hear the case on December 18, 2023. 

Election Commission stops training of DROs, ROs

The PTI argued that the ECP had violated the Constitution and the Elections Act 2017 by appointing ROs from the bureaucracy of federal and provincial governments without consulting the political parties.

The PTI also contended that the ECP had not taken into account the performance and neutrality of the officers. 

The ECP, however, defended its decision and said that it had followed the law and the past practice of appointing ROs from the bureaucracy.

The ECP also said that it had the power to remove any RO who was found to be biased or incompetent. 

The LHC order has created uncertainty over the holding of the general election on time, as the ECP has to release the election schedule at least 54 days before the polling day.

According to the election schedule, December 17 is the first day and February 8 is the 54th day.

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