LHC adjourns hearing of plea against Senate polls through secret ballot

LAHORE (APP): The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday adjourned till January 24 the hearing of a petition challenging the condition of secret ballot for upcoming election of Senate members.

The single bench comprising Justice Atir Mahmood heard the petition filed by Munir Ahmad.

A deputy attorney general told the court that a presidential reference about the matter was pending before the Supreme Court. He pleaded with the court to adjourn the further hearing of the petition till its decision.

However, the petitioner’s counsel argued that the opinion of the Supreme Court had been sought through the presidential reference whereas the petition challenged it.

But, the court, after hearing detailed arguments of the parties, adjourned further hearing till January 24 as the matter was pending before the Supreme Court.

The petitioner had stated that the practice of ‘vote buying’ hit the credibility of every Senate election since 1985 and it was always followed by ‘promise for reforms’. He submitted that all political parties, academia and others sections of the society had consensus that this practice should come to an end.

“That there is a dire need to put a stop to vote-buying and this can only be achieved through an ‘open ballot’ mode”, he added.

He submitted that if the upcoming elections of the Senate were yet again marred by vote-buying, owing to secrecy of ballot, it would undermine the confidence of people in the democratic process.

He also contended that Article 226 restricted secret ballot only for election of President, Speakers and Deputy Speakers of National and provincial assemblies, and election of Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Senate, whereas the elections for the members of Senate did not fall under it. He pleaded with the court to set aside Section 122(6) of Election Act 2017, the condition of secret ballot for election of Senate members, as it was ultra vires of Articles 222 and 226 of the Constitution.