The Lahore High Court has expressed its inability to provide district returning officers and returning officers for the upcoming general elections in Punjab, citing shortage of staff amid heavy workload. “This Court is in receipt of D.O.No.F.2(2)/2023-Coord dated 01.02.2023 from Election Commission of Pakistan, courtesy your good office, by virtue of which, services of judicial officers of Distr. Returning Officers & Returning Officers for the conduct of forthcoming General elections to the Provincial Assembly of Punjab have been required,” a letter written by LHC Registrar Irfan Ahmed Saeed to ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan stated. “Indeed, being spearhead component of democratic process, conduct of General Elections is a sacrosanct national duty and this Court would have taken pride and felt honoured to lend services of District & Sessions Judges, Additional District & Sessions Judges & Civil Judges to supervise the Elections, had this Court been not constrained by the following factors and hard ground realities,” it continued. “As we speak, a huge number of cases totaling 13,12,480 are pending adjudication in the Courts of District & Sessions Judges, Additional District & Sessions Judges, Senior Civil Judges and Civil Judges throughout Punjab and if services of majority of these officers are given as District Returning Officers & Returning Officers at the disposal of Election Commission of Pakistan, this pendency will mount up by manifold and the ultimate sufferers will be the poor litigants, resultantly hampering the entire scheme & system of dispensation of justice at the gross-root level and this cannot be afforded/compromised at the cost of delay in justice and aggravating nuisance of the litigant public for the relief and ensuring their basic human rights for whom District Judiciary, the backbone of our justice system, functions,” it stated. “Already there is a considerable deficiency of working strength of Judicial Officers in Punjab as against the total sanctioned strength. The data clearly establishes the case in point that this strength of Judges of District Judiciary in Punjab would further be depleted and decision making system & conflicts of the parties concerned would be jeopardized immensely resulting into a stand-still which cannot, in any way whatsoever, will be acceptable for the simple & obvious reason that the paramount/foremost objective of judiciary is to provide justice to the masses rather than to conduct elections,” the letter stated. “In the event of appointment of Judicial Officers as District Returning Officers and Returning Officers, they not only have to perform this onerous/whole time task but perform court functions as well which is practically impossible as sailing in two boats at the same time would badly affect both the Constitutional as well as statutory functions and may lead to any uno toward consequences,” it continued. “Last but not the least, members of District Judiciary, Punjab, while shouldering constitutional obligations of District Returning Officers/Returning Officers in the past, have had un-pleasant/bitter experiences which became great source of obstruction in discharging their functions with freedom according to the law/ procedure,” it added. “For the foregoing detailed reasons, I am under directions of the Hon’ble Chief Justice, that this Court does not find itself in a position to extend services of our Judicial Officers for the subject cited purpose and convey regret with heavy heart in this regard,” it concluded.