Supreme Court urged to send back presidential reference on Senate polls

ECP says no provision in constitution for Senate elections via open ballot

By: News Desk      Published: 06:05 PM, 16 Jan, 2021
Supreme Court urged to send back presidential reference on Senate polls

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has opposed the holding of Senate elections through the open ballot, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

In its 12-page reply submitted to the Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday through Advocate Sheharyar Swati, which is hearing a presidential reference on the subject, the ECP argued that Article 226 of the constitution that dealt with Senate elections clearly stated that all elections, except those for prime minister or Chairman Senate, would be held through secret ballot.

The Commission argued that since elections for the Upper House of parliament were held under the constitution, so in order to eliminate the provision of secret ballot, amendment to the constitution was required.

The ECP said there was also a mention of Senate elections in Articles 59, 219 and 224 of the Constitution.

The Commission further said that since the Indian constitution was silent on secret ballot, the courts in that country had relied on that.

On the other hand, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has appealed to the apex court to return presidential reference to the government instead of giving a verdict on it.

JI, in its statement submitted to the SC, has also called for amending the Constitution if the provision of secret ballot is to be eliminated.

It has stressed the need for letting the parliament decide the mode of holding elections for the Upper House of parliament.

Earlier, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has also opposed the idea of open ballot.

Sindh govt reply next week

While all other three provinces, in their replies submitted to the Supreme Court, have supported the idea of holding Senate elections via open ballot, the government of Sindh, on the other hand, has sought one week time from the apex court for the submission of its reply in the case.

The court is now to resume hearing in the case on Monday (January 18).

On Dec 23, 2020, the federal government had sought the Supreme Court opinion on holding the upcoming elections for the upper house of the Parliament through open ballot and show of hands.

President Dr Arif Alvi, after approving the proposal of the prime minister, had filed a reference in the Supreme Court, seeking its opinion on the Senate election through show of hands.

Through the reference, filed under Article 186 of the Constitution, the president sought the opinion of the country’s highest court on amending Section (6) 122 of the Election Act 2017 without amending the Constitution. “The requirement of secret ballot for election for Senate is not by way of a constitutional mandate but it is by only way of a statutory provisions namely Section 122(6) of the Elections Act, 2017, which may be amended by an Act of Parliament or through an ordinance, promulgated under Article 89 of the Constitution,” the reference had contended.

The reference had claimed that it will promote transparency and accountability in the electoral process, acknowledge respect for the choice and desires of the citizen voters, strengthen political parties and their discipline which is essential for parliamentary democracy, discourage floor crossing, use of laundered money for vote buying in elections which grossly insult the mandate of the people.