KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Thursday issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan and others on an application of the provincial government seeking suspension of the operation of the court order on secret ballot.
The court in its order had restored a previous local government law while directing the Election Commission of Pakistan to immediately fix a date to hold the elections of mayor and other local government representatives across the province by secret ballot.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, had on Wednesday given the short order on as many as five identical petitions challenging the passage of an amendment bill that abolished secret ballot for the election of mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and vice-chairmen of local councils, binding the members to cast their votes by showing their hands.
The petitions were filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and PML-Functional leaders, who requested the court to annul the amendment to the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, which binds the members to cast their votes by showing their hands instead of secret ballot for electing mayors and deputy mayors, etc.
On Thursday, the advocate general filed an application before the bench. The court was requested to suspend its order to enable the provincial government to file an appeal against the order in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The bench issued notices to the respondents, who also included the petitioners, and put off the hearing to Feb 16.
CNG rickshaw owners’ plea dismissed
Meanwhile, another division bench of the Sindh High Court dismissed a constitutional petition of the All Karachi CNG Rickshaw Owners’ Association against the action being taken against them by the traffic police and other authorities.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, after the perusal of an official report filed by the provincial authorities and hearing arguments of the government law officer dismissed the petition.
In the petition, the association submitted that the traffic police and the city administration were taking action against CNG rickshaws on the pretext of action ordered by the SHC against Qingqis (motorbike-rickshaws).
It was submitted that CNG rickshaws were plying in accordance with the law for the past four years, but the traffic police had started impounding the three-wheelers.
The petitioners impleaded the traffic police, the provincial transport authority and the excise and taxation department as respondents. They asked the court to restrain the respondents from taking ‘illegal action’ against their vehicles.
The provincial authorities submitted a report stating that the CNG rickshaws were allowed to take four passengers under the law, while the three-wheeler owners were loading seven to 11 passengers in their vehicles.
The official report, which was also placed on record of the Supreme Court during the proceedings related to Qingqi (pronounced as Chingchi) rickshaws, said that overloading was against the motor vehicle law.
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2016