ISLAMABAD - Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Tuesday, while hearing the electoral rolls case, observed they would not allow anyone or institution to flout the court orders.

Expressing grave concerns over a news item published in an English daily, which reported the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as saying that the apex court was meddling in the affairs of the body, the bench told him that he was maligning the Supreme Court by giving these statements.

The court, therefore, directed him to submit an authentic copy of the letter he wrote to the prime minister, complaining the apex court interference in the ECP’s affairs, and noticed that he was not following the court orders.

The chief justice said preparation of up-to-date electoral rolls was a constitutional responsibility of the ECP, adding that it was a constitutional command and no one from abroad would come and tell the commission to complete the electoral rolls. Justice Khilji Arif Hussain said: “It’s our duty to ensure that no one violates the constitution,” adding that if they (judges) discharged their duties, people started saying the apex court was interfering in their domain.

The court noted that ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed on July 4, 2011 told the court the electoral rolls would be finalised by February 23, 2012, a promised not fulfilled yet.

The chief justice remarked that the finalisation of the rolls was not in the benefit of the Supreme Court but the over 80 million voters who send their representatives to the legislatures. The chief election commissioner, secretary, and the Nadra chairman filed their explanations. The secretary submitted reply on behalf of himself and the chief election commissioner, while the attorney general read out their replies in the courtroom.

The court observed there was a difference between the stance taken by the secretary and the explanation given by the ECP members, adding that the secretary kept them in the darkness, as the ECP members did not have any knowledge about the deadline. “They came to knew about the deadline first time in December 2011.” The attorney general said the ECP members were appointed in pursuance of the 18th Amendment. The members said they came to know about the 23rd deadline for the first on 10th of December 2011.

The secretary reply stated that Khyber Pk and Balochistan provincial assemblies passed resolutions requesting for extension in preparing the lists, while the Sindh provincial election commissioner had stated that door-to-door enumeration was going on but the floods had affected the six districts of the province. The court noted the documents indicate that the request for extension of time was made in September, October and August.

The Nadra explained that the delay caused by the census blocks, which previously stood at 1,04,000 but the Population Census Organisation had now increased their number to around 1,40,000 census block with 250 households. The bench directed the attorney general to assist the court about the position taken by the ECP secretary and Nadra.

During the hearing, the chief justice said, “If the government decides today to hold elections, the Election Commission will hold the polls on bogus voter lists. The process of preparing new voters lists has been going on since 2007 upon the petition of the late Benazir Bhutto.”

“We can’t leave things at your mercy,” the CJP asked the ECP secretary.

PPP Secretary-General Jahangir Badr told the court that late Benazir Bhutto had filed the petition that the election should be held in more transparent manner and lists should be free from error.

The chief justice said her petition remained pending due to the happenings on November 3, 2007.

The hearing was adjourned till 14th of March 2012.