How I would have dealt with the case
Markandey Katju 28 Apr 2023

Pakistan's Supreme Court delivered a strong verdict on 4th April that in view of Article 224(2) of Pakistan's Constitution elections to a Provincial Assembly must be held within 90 days of its dissolution, and consequently it struck down the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan postponing the Punjab Assembly elections to 8th October, and directed that the elections must be held on 14th May, However, thereafter the  Court seems to have developed cold feet, and allowed the matter in court to drag on for over 3 weeks, and it is still going on there.

After its bold order of 4th April, when faced with the question of how to implement its order, the Court practically converted itself into a village panchayat or mediation centre or an Afghan jirga, permitting long arguments by lawyers, calling finance and defence ministry officials, ( because the government's stand was that there was no money for holding the elections, and there were security problems) asking political parties to talk to each other and sort out the matter about fixing another date for the elections, etc, etc..

The case will be again heard in Court today, 28th April, but I am pretty sure no agreement will be reached, since the ruling PDM ( Pakistan Democratic Movement ) fears it will be routed in the polls, as the popularity of Imran Khan's PTI is very high ( as all opinion polls indicate ).
By its order of 4th April the Court had also directed the Government to release 21 billion rupees to the Election Commission of Pakistan by 10th April for holding the elections. The government did not comply with this order, giving all kinds of excuses e.g. that only Parliament can sanction the money.

Thereafter by another order the Court directed the State Bank of Pakistan to release the funds to the ECP.
Even this order was not complied with, and Pakistan's National Assembly ( in which there are no members of Imran Khan's PTI as they have all resigned ) passed a resolution categorically refusing to release the funds

On 20th April the Court asked the PDM and PTI to talk with each other and arrive at a consensus about a new date for the Punjab elections
Since then a week has expired, but no such consensus has been reached, and we have to see what happens today.

I have been a Judge in India for 20 years ( in 3 High Courts and in the Supreme Court ), and if the case had been before me I would have handled it very differently. 
After the order of 4th April fixing 14th May for holding the Punjab Assembly elections, I would have tolerated no nonsense e.g, that there are no funds or there is problem of lack of security, and would have brooked no opposition to the order from any person or authority, using contempt of court powers.
 I would have permitted no long winded arguments by lawyers, because when Article 224(2) of the Constitution was clear, what was there to argue about ? 

The PDM had made it clear at the very outset that it would not abide by the Court's order of 4th April fixing 14th May for holding the elections. I would have therefore peremptorily sacked the PDM Govt for contempt of court, following the precedent of the sacking by the Supreme Court of the then Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani for contempt of court, and would have appointed a caretaker govt consisting of persons in Pakistan known for their high integrity, and directed them to carry out the order of 4th April and hold elections on 14th May. Anyone obstructing this directive would be packed off to jail in short shrift.

Unfortunately the Pakistan Supreme Court has adopted another course of action. After its bold order of 4th April it seems to have become wishy washy, irresolute, weak kneed and half hearted, and thereby landed up in a mess.

By Justice Markandey Katju, former Judge, Indian Supreme Court

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