Apex Court adjourns reference about Senate election till today

ISLAMABAD (APP): The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned hearing on the presidential reference seeking an opinion on open balloting for the upcoming Senate elections till Wednesday.

A five-member larger bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi heard the reference.

Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan while continuing his arguments, said the court could gave its opinion on the reference despite a bill regarding open ballot was in the Parliament.

He said the court had also barred the governor from signing the bill in the Hasba Bill case.

Justice Ijaz said it was the job of Election Commission to stop horse-trading, and buying and selling of votes.

The attorney general said that the Election Commission was in favour of secret ballot and it had also appointed a separate lawyer to argue the case, he added.

Justice Ijaz said the Election Commission also opened the general election vote on allegations of fraud. The identity card number was also written on the vote counterfoil, he added.

The Attorney General said the name of the voter would be written on the back of the slip in the open ballot.He asked why did the authors of the 18th Amendment forget the Charter of Democracy? The movers of 18th Amendment and the authors of Charter of Democracy were accountable to court and history, he added.

The chief justice said if the election procedure was not mentioned in the Constitution, then the Parliament could legislate in that regard.

Senator Raza Rabbani said the government had decided to bring a constitutional amendment bill in that regard. Pursuing the reference would be tantamount to finding two solutions to a problem at the same time, he added.

He pleaded the court to stay the hearing of the reference till the constitutional amendment bill was introduced. Legislation was the job of Parliament and the interpretation of the constitution was the prerogative of court, he added.

Justice Ijaz said the court had the power to interpret whether or not a constitutional amendment was introduced.

Addressing Raza Rabbani, the chief justice said Article 186 would become ineffective if the court accepted his arguments.

Justice Ijaz said there were hundreds of ways to respond to a reference. One way was that there was no need for constitutional amendment while the second way was to amend the Constitution, he added.

He asked how would the court and the Parliament come face to face in both cases. Whether it was not the court’s prerogative to interpret the Constitution, he added.

Raza Rabbani said he just wanted to bring the matter to the notice of the court.

The attorney general said some 101 articles were amended in the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Promises made in the Charter of Democracy had not been fulfilled, he added.

The chief justice observed that unfortunately it the country’s politics.

The attorney general said the opposition wanted sale of votes for the Upper House to continue. Not every battle was fought for victory. It was not politics, but something else, he added.

The chief justice asked as to why the opposition was not agreeing on open ballot.

The attorney general said the opposition parties had agreed on open ballot 10 years ago, but they were not fulfilling that promise now.

The election of the President, Prime Minister and chief ministers was not mentioned in the Election Act, he added.

He said the Constitution only mentioned the formation of a senate. The Election Commission was a very powerful institution when it came to exercise its authority, he added.

He said the government wanted open ballot only for transparency.

Justice Ijaz said that the Constitution did not bar any member from voting against the party line.

The attorney general said the members of provincial assemblies should tell their voters whom they had voted for in the Senate election.