The Supreme Court with a 4-1 majority on Monday opined that the Senate elections would be held through secret balloting under Article 226 of the Constitution. A five-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi announced the reserved opinion on the Presidential Reference regarding Senate elections. The short decision stated that It is the duty of the Election Commission of Pakistan in terms of Article 218(3) of the Constitution, to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, fairly and in accordance with the law and that corrupt practices are guarded against on which this court has given successive judgments and the most exhaustive being Workers Party Pakistan through Akhtar Hussain Advocate vs Federation of Pakistan.
While elaborating on the secrecy of the ballot, referring a previous case the court’s judgement noted that secrecy is not absolute and that the secrecy of ballot, therefore, has not to be implemented in the ideal or absolute sense but to be tempered by practical considerations necessitated by the processes of election. The Election Commission is required to take all available measures including utilizing technologies to fulfill the solemn constitutional duty to ensure that the election is “conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law and that corrupt practices are guarded against”.
Government of Pakistan had filed a Presidential reference regarding Open Ballot in forthcoming Senate election scheduled today, on March 03, while seeking Supreme Court advice on the case. The stated aim of the incumbent government was to achieve transparency in the senate election. Besides, filing a Presidential reference in the Supreme Court, government took a parallel step and issued an ordinance calling for open ballot in forthcoming Senate election, which was to automatically be enacted, incase, court’s verdict negates the open ballot poll. However, the Court decision was complete surprise for the government.
The Court’s decision has nullified the Presidential ordinance, while asking for secret ballot as per constitutional provisions except supporting only supporting government’s stance on identifiable ballot up to some extent. Supreme court left the details to ECP to decide the methodologies for secrecy, while making the ballot identifiable, if the need arises to investigate any complaint regarding corruption by any voter. The Court’s decision strengthened the parliament supremacy as sole forum to legislate on the subject.
Both sides, Government and opposition started beating drum to be a victorious in the result of Supreme Court decision on Presidential reference. After the announcement of short decision by the Court, a team of government Ministers went to ECP to offer the technologies available with government institutions to help get transparency in the Senate Election. Similarly, Opposition also conveyed its opinion to the ECP. As per reports, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had approached to NADRA and FIA for seeking their expert opinion and support in making the forthcoming Senate Election transparent and identifiable.
The Supreme Court’s decision was an eye opener and strengthened the belief of the people of Pakistan in Country’s constitution. Pakistan’s democratic institutions are week and a lot of social or political ills had developed as a part of our political culture. The Political parties shaped into families owned enterprises, Parties head proved to be authoritarian ruler having sole power to run the party as a personal property. ECP must establish rules to eradicate this undemocratic behavior from Country’s political parties to promote real democracy in the Country. This phenomenon will actually lead to transparency in the election process.