Supreme Court throws out petition against CEC’s appointment

By: News Desk      Published: 11:39 AM, 15 Sep, 2021
Supreme Court throws out petition against CEC’s appointment
File photo.

The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday threw out the petition filed against the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Iskandar Sultan Raja, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

A two-member bench of the SC, headed by acting chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial, heard the petition.

The registrar's office had raised objections to the application filed by Advocate Ali Azeem Afridi. 

While throwing out the petition, the apex court observed that CEC Raja was a retired civil servant, and there was no on-duty judge serving in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The Supreme Court was of the view that no solid ground existed against the appointment of the CEC. “Members of the ECP as well as the chief election commissioner are appointed on the basis of their competence and merit,” the court observed.

Addressing Advocate Afridi, the petitioner, the acting CJP said, “You have argued that a retired civil servant cannot be made the CEC, and that the CJP should be consulted prior to his appointment. Have you read the decision regarding the appointment of the National Accountability Bureau Chairman?”

Justice Bandial made it clear to the applicant that neither the CEC nor the NAB chairman was a judicial officer. “And that as per the constitution, no constitutional amendment could be challenged in a court of law,” acting CJP Bandial remarked.

“However, we commend your efforts for raising a constitutional point in the apex court,” the acting CJP concluded.

Last week, Advocate Ali Azeem Afridi had moved the petition against the appointment of the current CEC, Sikander Sultan Raja. He had approached the Supreme Court (SC) after the Peshawar High Court (PHC) dismissed his similar petition last year in September. He assailed a constitutional amendment that allowed the appointment of a retired senior civil servant or a technocrat as the chief election commissioner (CEC) of Pakistan. He requested the court to declare the incumbent CEC’s appointment unconstitutional.

Sikandar Sultan Raja was sworn in as the chief election commissioner (CEC) on January 27, 2020,

The development came days after the government declared war on the CEC in the wake of the ECP raising reservations over the use of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections and a Senate panel rejecting amendments to the electoral reforms bill.

Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had accused the CEC of acting as a “mouthpiece for the opposition parties”. The minister alleged that the CEC had been in close contact with former premier Nawaz Sharif and could have sympathy with him in a personal capacity.

Fawad said the ruling PTI wanted reforms in the electoral system in the country because whenever a party lost, it claimed that the elections were rigged and no one was satisfied with the results. He added that the government had proposed the use of technology as the Supreme Court had also suggested doing so.

The ECP, in its 34-page letter submitted to chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, wrote that EVMs could open up the possibility of "more sophisticated fraud" through the manipulation of software and hardware.

The commission underscored the need for considering the compatibility of EVMs with the existing constitutional and legal framework. "The machine cannot prevent issues and electoral frauds like booth capturing, low women voters' turnout, misuse of state authorities, electronic ballot stuffing, vote buying, law and order situation, dishonest polling staff, widespread political and electoral violence, and abuse of state resources by incumbent parties.”

The ECP further noted that the system would be very costly, as there were around 100,000 polling stations and 400,000 polling booths.

Reporter Amanat Gishkori