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Full Court of 13 Judges to Hear Sunni Ittehad Council’s Reserved Seats Case on June 3

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A significant development has emerged in the case regarding the reserved seats of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) as a full court comprising 13 available judges is scheduled to convene on June 3 to address this matter. The decision to form a full court was made during a meeting of a three-member committee presided over by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa. The committee, by a majority of 2 to 1, resolved to include all available judges in the full court.

It is noteworthy that Justice Munib Akhtar dissented from the majority decision, advocating for the formation of a bench consisting of the seven most senior available judges instead. Additionally, it was revealed that Justice Musarrat Hilali will be unable to participate in the case due to illness, further impacting the composition of the court.

The legal battle surrounding the reserved seats has also seen political implications, with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) approaching the Lahore High Court (LHC) to seek directives for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to reinstate the party’s electoral symbol of the “cricket bat”. PTI emphasized that depriving a political party of its right to contest an election, particularly by withholding its symbol due to internal poll issues, is unjustifiable.

Furthermore, the suspension of 27 lawmakers elected on reserved seats by the Punjab Assembly has added complexity to the political landscape, affecting the ruling coalition’s efforts to maintain a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. This development has cast a shadow over the government’s influence in the house.

The legal dispute is currently pending before the Supreme Court, where PTI-SIC has contested the allocation of reserved seats for women and non-Muslims to political parties other than PTI-SIC, citing violations of Article 51(6)(d) & (e) of the Constitution. The party emphasized that the ECP has acknowledged SIC as a parliamentary party with 82 general seats in the National Assembly, thereby entitling it to reserved seats.

In a separate legal proceeding, a three-member bench of the apex court suspended a Peshawar High Court (PHC) order for the allocation of additional reserved seats to different political parties in national and provincial legislatures following an appeal by the SIC. Moreover, the ECP’s decision to strip PTI of its election symbol due to irregularities in its intra-party elections, which the SC subsequently upheld, has added another layer of complexity to the overarching legal and political landscape.

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