SC dissatisfied with ECP report, seeks elaborate statement

ISLAMABAD – Expressing its dissatisfaction over Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) report, the Supreme Court of Pakistan asked the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) to file an elaborate and well considered statement after deliberating upon the functions given in Article 218(3) of the Constitution.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed who is heading the bench asked the CEC to deliberate upon the functions given in Article 218(3) of Constitution with other members of the ECP, representing various provinces. 

The CJP inquired from the CEC that what is the role of the Commission in view of the perceptions among the people regarding buying and selling in the Senate polls?

During the hearing, CEC Sikandar Sultan and all the ECP members appeared before the five-member bench which conducted hearing of the reference regarding holding of the Senate election either through “secret ballot” or “open ballot”.

The Commissioner submitted that workable scheme and mechanism have been developed to guard against the corrupt practice.

The CJP said: “You (ECP) cannot be silent body and do nothing to guard against the corrupt practice. You have to be expressive in view of the people perceptions (on Senate polls).” He added that the ECP is an independent institution and Article 218(3) cast duty upon the ECP to hold election fairly, justly and in accordance with Constitution and corrupt practice be guarded against.

He said that for quite some time, the corrupt practices have permeated in the Senate election.

Chief Justice Gulzar added that three days ago the legislators of the political parties have admitted on the floor of the Parliament about it and want something be done to guard against the corrupt practice.

The Chief Justice noted that the CEC is aware of the situation but stating whatever will happen will be done after the Senate election.

He (CEC) does not want to do anything which is taking place before the Senate election. He then mentioned the video viral on social media about distribution of funds.

Sikandar Sultan said that Chapter 10 of the Election Act, Article 218(3) and the Rules of the ECP provide the mechanism to prevent the corrupt practices.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that in Chapter 10 the corrupt practice include the bribery, undue influence exerted on the MPs but there is nothing if an MPA gives votes against his party candidate after taking money, as there is no penal consequence of it.

The CEC said that they have taken pre-emptive and preventive measures and if unlawful act is brought to their notice the Commission takes action against the lawmaker found involved in the corrupt practice.

He added, “We are monitoring, and liaisoning with the financial wing of the FIA and NADRA, and scrutiny is conducted at different phases.”

Chief Justice Gulzar said that these are routine tasks.

He asked that what mechanism developed by the ECP to stop the corrupt practice. Justice Ijaz inquired from the CEC that what according to you is secrecy and to what extent the secrecy be maintained in the election. Sikandar Sultan replied that in his opinion secrecy is that the voter is not identified.

Justice Ijaz said that according to Section 81 and 82 of the Act, the secrecy is before casting and marking of ballot-paper before inserting it into the ballot box.

Justice Yahya Afridi asked from the CEC that whether in his opinion the steps taken by the ECP are suffice to guard against the corrupt practice. The CEC replied that the Commission has taken many measures and in the light of the Supreme Court directions, it would make more arrangements.

Justice Ijaz asked that whether the identity of voter will be maintained indefinitely.

He further asked from the CEC to maintain the secrecy but said that the secrecy is not absolute. Sikandar Sultan stated that the Commission discussed these sections (81&82 of Act) and the Supreme Court judgments, which state that ballot marking is prohibited.

Then, Justice Ijaz said that what if the Serial No. of the voters is available. The commissioner responded that this way the voters be identified against the spirit of secret voting.

At that, the Chief Justice remarked that the CEC is not responding to the questions, please try to understand and absorb what the court wanted to state.

The CEC stated that they would hold the Senate elections in accordance with the law and if they wanted open ballot then the law should be amended.

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan informed that in light of the SC proceeding he had prepared a proposal.

He said to the CJP that if the CEC and other members of the ECP read it and give statement in view of it.

PPP Senator Raza Rabbani objected to it and said that the ECP is an independent Constitution body.

He said that there are more than one stakeholder in the Senate election. He added that the government is only one entity. He said that any proposal coming from the AGP on the instant matter is the government position.

The PPP Senator further said the better course would be that the mechanism is devised after taking all political parties on the board.

He said that in his arguments, he would be making submission on the word secrecy given in Sections 81 & 82 of the Act.

Then, the apex court deferred the hearing in this matter till Wednesday (today) directing the ECP to file another report.

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