Senate polls can not be held through an open ballot: SC

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ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday opined that the Senate polls can not be held through an open ballot.

The verdict was announced by a five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed. The other members were Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi.

The verdict came as with a 4-1 majority. Justice Yahya Afridi disagreed with the opinion.

The apex court ruled that the Election Commission of Pakistan is empowered to take all the steps to ensure transparency in the polls.

“It is the responsibility of the Election Commission to end corrupt practices from the electoral process and it can utilise the technology in this regard,” the short order stated.

The apex court further said that it is up to the ECP to decide to which extent the voting should remain secret.

The top court stated that all institutions were bound to follow the ECP and the parliament can pass constitutional amendments.

Quoting a previous decision of the SC, the bench said that the secrecy of the ballot paper was “not final”.

According to legal experts, the presidential ordinance which was issued to hold open ballot died after the SC order as it was conditional on the top court’s order.

The court had reserved its opinion last week after all the parties had concluded their arguments and after the rebuttal of Attorney General Khalid Javed.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed had observed that the court will give its opinion by interpreting the provisions of the Constitution.

“We have nothing to do with politics but are going to interpret the Constitution,” the CJP had remarked.

Talking to media after the SC order, Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz urged the Election Commission to make arrangements to ensure transparency in light of the directions given by the court.

The federal minister said the SC’s judgment in the Presidential reference is historic and under it the Senate elections will be held as per Article 226 of the constitution.

He said the court has also ruled that the secrecy of the ballot is not permanent.

The information minister asked the ECP to take requisite steps for ensuring transparency in the Senate elections in the light of the Supreme Court’s decision.

PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said they were of the opinion that the Senate polls should be held according to the constitutional provisions and any change in this process should be brought through the Parliament.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that the Senate polls in 2021 would be held according to Article 226 of the Constitution,” she said.

The PML-N spokesperson said it is to be seen in the detailed order about the ECP’s role regarding transparency.

She said that the PML-N has been the victim of horse-trading and vote-theft in the past and the party wanted that the polls should be held transparently.