Judicial Independence and Appointment of Election Tribunals


shallow focus photography of fountain pen
shallow focus photography of fountain pen

In W.P No. 28985 of 2024, the Lahore High Court addressed the contentious issue of appointing Election Tribunals as per Section 140 of the Elections Act, 2017. Salman Akram Raja challenged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for not adhering to the Chief Justice's nominations for Election Tribunals. The court provided significant clarification on the judicial process and the primacy of the Chief Justice's role in such appointments.

Key Areas:

Background of the Case: The ECP requested nominations for Election Tribunals from the Chief Justices of provincial High Courts for the general elections held on February 8, 2024. The Lahore High Court's Chief Justice nominated two judges, which the ECP appointed. However, subsequent requests by the Chief Justice for additional nominations were partly ignored by the ECP, leading to this legal challenge.

Consultation Process: The core issue was whether the ECP could selectively appoint judges from the nominations provided by the Chief Justice and alter their jurisdictions. The court emphasized that the consultation process must be "effective, meaningful, and purposive," as interpreted in Al-Jehad Trust vs. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 1996 SC 324).

Judicial Independence: The court reiterated that the independence of the judiciary is paramount. The ECP's actions, which involved selecting only certain nominated judges and changing their territorial jurisdictions, were deemed impermissible and an overreach of its authority. This stance was supported by the precedent set in Mrs. Zakia Hussain vs. Syed Farooq Hussain (PLD 2020 SC 401), affirming that only the Chief Justice has the administrative power to assign cases to judges.

Legal Precedents and Interpretations: The court referenced several key judgments including Al-Jehad Trust vs. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 1996 SC 324), Sh. Ria ul Haq vs. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2013 SC 501), Gul Taiz Khan Marwat vs. The Registrar, Peshawar High Court (PLD 2021 SC 391). These cases collectively underline the principle that the Chief Justice's recommendations regarding judicial appointments are to be given paramountcy unless there are compelling reasons to deviate.

Conclusion and Orders: The court allowed the petitions, declaring that the ECP must adhere to the Chief Justice's nominations for Election Tribunals. Notifications by the ECP assigning jurisdiction were set aside, reinforcing that only the Chief Justice has the authority to determine the territorial jurisdiction of judges.

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