ISLAMABAD - Taking notice of the delay in preparation of electoral rolls, the Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that Feb 23 deadline would not be extended and directed the Commission to use all the resources to complete the task within the time limit.

While Attorney General of Pakistan Maulvi Anwar-ul-Haq apprised the bench that an amendment bill regarding by-elections held after the passage of 18th amendment would be tabled before the parliament today or tomorrow (Friday). Three Senators, 9 MNAs, 7 MPAs in Punjab, one each in Sindh and Balochistan and two in Khyber Pukhtunkhawa were elected in by-election after the 18th Amendment.

The court noted that the department (ECP) that talks about the transparency, its secretary, who is on a two-year contract, was re-employed after the retirement. He said, why the staff who have already been working in the Commission were promoted to the post?

During the proceedings, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heading a four-member bench expressed dissatisfaction over the report submitted by Joint Secretary Sher Afgan, saying the notice for updating the electoral rolls were issued in 2009 on the petition of late Benazir Bhutto, but still the task after two years has not been completed.

The stance of the ECP was that it was not possible for them to meet the deadline and tried to shift the responsibility of the delay to the Nadra. Sher Afgan said that after receiving the lists from Nadra, the ECP would proceed further and display them at 55,000 registration centres set up all over the country.

The Chief Justice asked the joint secretary that the court had passed an order, which is of binding nature; therefore, don't give this kind of statement which shows that the ECP would not be able to finish the task in time. He said that instead of completing the task itself the ECP was now depending upon Nadra. The Chief Justice told the ECP to expedite its efforts and submit the progress report fortnightly in the chamber. The counsel for Foreign Affairs filed a report that the right of vote be given to the Pakistanis living abroad.

The task shall be completed within the deadline and it is their duty to complete the electoral rolls within the time, said General Manager Nadra Syed Muzffar Ali, adding Nadra is giving full attention to preparing the lists and, therefore, has enhanced its capacity four times. He said that the ECP had earlier told them that 3 to 4 million forms will be given, but now the ECP has given 13 million forms to them.

Afnan Kundi, counsel for Nadra, said, "The ECP was now attributing the delay to us." He said the task that the ECP had to complete in November was done in December. However, he said that they would come up to the expectation of the court.

Justice Tariq Pervaiz and Justice Khilji complained that no official of ECP visited their house for regarding rechecking of voters' details. Justice Tariq said that the EC has completely failed to discharge its constitutional obligation.

The Chief Justice said, "The Commission is under the command of Constitution." He asked the secretary to realize his responsibility towards the nation.

On the issue of by-elections that were held after the passage of 18th amendment, the AGP submitted a copy of the bill and apprised the court that an amendment bill regarding the matter would be tabled before the parliament today or tomorrow (Friday).

The court noted that there was no indemnity clause in it, adding how the election of persons elected in by-election after the 18th Amendment would be validated. The Chief Justice said that the Election Commission constituted under the 18th Amendment itself noted that there was a mistake. Justice Khilji questioned whether an illegal action could be rectified?

The Chief Justice asked the AGP what would happen if the court declares the election of "those people in by-election were held not in accordance with the Constitution under the 18th Amendment scheme. The AG said, "These candidates would be declared as they were not elected." The Chief Justice said that there should be re-election.

Jamshaid Dasti, who appeared in person in the court, said that he and Asghar Ali Jat MNA, Asif Ajmal MPA, Basit Bukhari MPA and Ahmad Mujtaba Gilani's by-elections were held before the 18th Amendment.

As except no one Jamshaid Dasti, and the counsel of Sardar Shafqat Hayyat Baloch and Ch Mumtaz Tamman appeared before the bench then notices were again issued to them and case was adjourned till January 19, 2012.