GB chief court hints at contempt proceedings against chief election commissioner
By Tanveer Ahmed
Gilgit (TP) October 2, 2020: A serious constitutional crisis is all set to brew ahead of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly elections as Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Court has taken strong exception to the statement of Election Commissioner Raja Shahbaz after the top court barred him from interfering in internal matters of government departments.
In a statement, Chief Court Registrar Ghulam Abbas Choupa said that the statement of the election commissioner — following the chief court decision of barring him from interfering in internal matters of government departments — is tantamount to contempt and contempt proceedings may be initiated against him and he may be disqualified for issuing such an irresponsible statement about the jurisdiction of the chief court as well as the powers of the chief election commissioner himself.
“The statement of Chief Election Commissioner Gilgit-Baltistan regarding the decision of the Chief Court, as against the law, is contemptuous, as according to Article 97 of the Governance Order 2018, there is no Election Commission in Gilgit-Baltistan. There is an election commissioner, who cannot exercise the powers of the Election Commission of Pakistan, which is not the name of an individual but an institution which also has members and collectively exercises powers under Election Act 2017 An Act. The GB Chief Election Commissioner cannot call himself equal to be that of the high court. By issuing the statement against the GB chief court’s decision, the Chief Election Commissioner has committed the contempt of court. The statement of the GB Chief Election Commissioner is likely to create a clash in the institutions. For issuing such a statement, the Chief Election Commissioner may be disqualified. A case may be taken up against the chief election commissioner once the Chief Court top judge returns to GB. A notice will also be taken on the privileges and other powers of the GB Chief Election Commissioner,” said a statement issued by the Chief Court registrar office.
Earlier, the GB chief election commissioner had made it obligatory for government departments to seek prior approval (from election commissioner) before transferring government employees, issuing tenders for development projects and making appointments till the elections were over.
In a case challenging this ban, a two-member bench of the GB chief court comprising Chief Judge Justice Malik Haq Nawaz and Judge Ali Baig had set aside and the vetoed the chief election commissioner and ordered him to confine himself to election-related matters under Section 10 of the Election Act, 2017 instead of interfering in international matters of government departments.
Soon after the GB chief court verdict, the chief election commissioner issued a statement saying that the election commissioner held powers to issue all kind of orders and it was obligatory for all government departments to follow his orders. “The GB chief court has announced the verdict without hearing the election commissioner and it was perjury of justice,” Chief Election Commissioner Raja Shahbaz had said.
According to an earlier report of Dawn, the GB chief court had also ordered that action would be taken against secretaries and officials who complied with illegal, verbal and written orders of the chief election commissioner.
“The court directed the GB chief secretary to monitor election commissioner’s intervention in internal matters of government departments. The bench also directed secretaries of all government departments to submit details with the GB chief court about the transfer of government employees on the order of the chief election commissioner. The two-judge bench explained that under the Election Act, 2017, the chief election commissioner can only deal with election matters. The court then declared intervention of the chief election commissioner in government departments’ illegal,” the newspaper reported.