On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the upcoming Senate elections would be conducted by secret ballot, as permitted by Article 226 of the country’s Constitution.
Under Article 218 of the Constitution, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is authorized to take all steps, including the use of cutting-edge technology, to ensure free and fair elections and fight corruption, according to the apex court’s 4:1 majority decision.
The reserved opinion was issued by a five-judge larger bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and consisting of Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Yahya Afridi.
The majority opinion was dissented from by Justice Afridi.
After both of the attorneys had ended their cases, the court reserved its verdict. Justice Gulzar Ahmed claimed at the last hearing that Parliament only passes resolutions to ensure democratic process transparency.
After hearing the lawyers’ claims, Attorney General Khalid Javed claimed in his rebuttal that scrutinising the vote would not jeopardise the confidentiality. The AG argued that the presidential referral was not based on a political issue, but rather on the interpretation of Article 226.
Justice Yahya Afridi questioned, “Will the supreme court’s opinion be final?” The government will be bound by the court’s ruling, according to the AG. “Over the court’s decision, a review plea may be filed,” Justice Afridi said.
The state lawyers claimed that a review petition could not be filed because of the reference. The chief justice said, “The court has no relationship with politics; it can only interpret the constitution.”
ECP to conduct Senate elections through secret ballot
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) declared on Tuesday that the Senate elections, which are scheduled to take place on March 3 (tomorrow), will be organized by secret ballot, as is customary in Pakistan.
The ECP decision came a day after the Supreme Court released its opinion on the presidential referral, ruling that the upper house of Parliament elections must be held by secret ballot, as mandated by the Constitution.
According to a statement, an ECP meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja clarified the SC opinion and agreed to enforce it in letter and spirit.
The ECP said, “The Commission is taking all practicable steps and measures to fulfil its constitutional duty of ensuring that corrupt practises in Senate Elections are prevented.”
“The Commission also determined that, due to a time limit, the upcoming Senate Election on March 3, 2021, will be held in compliance with the Constitution and Law, as has been the case in the past.”