Islamabad (Web Desk): Justice Athar Minallah of Supreme Court (SC) on Friday maintained that the top court's suo motu notice over delay in the announcement of Punjab elections was dismissed by a majority 4-3 ruling.
Justice Minallah, was among the judges who rejected the suo motu notice taken by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on February 22 regarding the delay in polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab on the advice of a SC bench hearing the Ghulam Mehmood Dogar case.
The CJP had constituted a nine-member bench, comprising himself, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah.
Two of the nine judges recused themselves from the case, while four including Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Minallah had dismissed the case.
On February 27, CJP Bandial split the larger bench into a five-member bench. The SC also issued a written order, which was dictated in the open court on Feb 23 when Justice Jamal Mandokhail objected to the initiation of the proceedings under Article 184(3).
In his detailed order, Justice Minallah stated that that “he had not recused nor had any reason to dissociate himself” from the case.
He said that he agreed with Justice Yahya Afridi’s note on dismissal of petition and his reasoning in the short order was “persuasive” therefore he had no “hesitation in concurring with the decision”.
Justice Minallah stated that he has read the detailed reasoning of Justice Shah and Justive Mandokhail and that he "agrees with their opinion, particularly regarding the final outcome of the petitions and the suo motu assumption of jurisdiction by a majority of 4 to 3 because this was the understanding in the meeting held in the anteroom on February 27."
He further said it was explicitly observed that the power conferred under Article 184(3) of the Constitution must always be exercised with circumspection and utmost caution.
"The manner and mode in which these proceedings were initiated have unnecessarily exposed the Court to political controversies. It has invited objections from political stakeholders in an already polarised political environment," Justice Minallah said.
"The objections have also been submitted in writing. This obviously has consequences for the trust the people ought to repose in the impartiality of the Court. The Court, by proceeding in a premature matter, will be stepping into already murky waters of the domain of politics. It is likely to erode public confidence. The assumption of suo motu jurisdiction in itself may raise concerns in the mind of an informed outside observer. In the circumstances, the rights of litigants whose cases are pending before us would be prejudiced, besides eroding public trust in the independence and impartiality of the Court. This could have been avoided if a Full Court was to take up these cases,” Jstice Minallah further said.
The SC judge also took aim at the political parties of the country stating, “It is ironic and unimaginable for the political stakeholders to involve the Court in resolving political disputes which ought to have been settled in the forums created for this purpose under the Constitution. It is also alarming that the conduct of the political stakeholders and their political strategies would create unprecedented political turmoil and instability in the country”.
"Political stability is a precondition for economic progress and prosperity of the people. The power struggle between the political stakeholders is undermining the welfare and economic conditions of the people of this country. The people of Pakistan have been made to suffer for a long time by depriving them of their fundamental rights," he asserted.
Justice Minallah, while referring to previous rulings of the court on political matters, remarked: “We cannot erase the judgments from the law reports but at least endeavour to restore public trust and confidence so that the past is forgotten to some extent. When politicians do not approach the appropriate forums and bring their disputes to the courts, the former may win or lose the case, but inevitably the court is the loser”.