Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has once again been firm in saying that the judiciary has a constitutional responsibility to preserve democracy and the rule of law. While addressing the Matiari District Bar Association at a reception in his honour on Saturday, he also said that social construction and progress were not possible without the rule of law and supremacy of the constitution. He said that there was no clash of institutions, and that there would be none if they remained within their constitutionally prescribed spheres. However, he pointed out that neither the executive nor the legislature had tried to play its role. While addressing the District Returning Officers, Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers of Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Matiari, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas and Thatta districts at the Hyderabad District and Sessions Courts on Friday night, at the dinner they gave for him, he said that the holding of elections in a transparent manner was the constitutional responsibility of the Election Commission. At a time when there is much being said about the scrutiny process’ harshness, he told them that the people had the right to choose their representatives, but scrutiny must ensure that the candidates were the right ones, as desired by the constitution.

Though there was no issue taken with this principle, the All-Pakistan Convention of Lawyers’ representatives questioned the address and termed it an attempt to influence the process of the general elections. This objection should be noted and made to disappear. It is to be hoped that this objection is not motivated by any support for any of the forces within the executive that had previously disobeyed judicial verdicts, and which attempted to embark on a course of confrontation with the judiciary.

While none of the three organs of state should interfere in the election process, it should not be forgotten that the District Returning Officers, Returning Officers and Assistant Returning Officers have been taken by the Election Commission from the subordinate judiciary on its own request. It is more important at this moment that the polls are conducted fairly than being overshadowed by suspicious behaviour.