Voting machine referendum plea dismissed

Published September 16, 2021
A file photo of the Islamabad High Court. — Photo courtesy IHC website/File
A file photo of the Islamabad High Court. — Photo courtesy IHC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday dismissed a petition seeking referendum on the introduction of electronic voting machines in the next general elections.

The court, however, said it expected that parliament in the light of objections raised by the Election Commission of Pakistan would legislate in this matter.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that parliament and the ECP would take a decision to ensure fair and transparent elections and the IHC was not the appropriate forum to seek the same relief.

“This court also has no reason to doubt that the concerns and objections raised by the Election Commission would not be taken into consideration by the parliament whenever the latter considers the proposed legislation relating to conduct of elections through the electronic voting machines,” he observed.

IHC expects parliament to legislate on the matter in light of ECP’s objections

In his petition, Advocate Tariq Asad had sought a directive for the ECP to apprise the court of the objections raised against the holding of next general elections through voting machi­nes. He also requested the court to suggest the federal government to hold a referendum on the use of voting mach­ines for holding general elections.

As the petitioner had raised concerns over political turmoil due to federal government’s insistence on introducing voting machines, the court was of the opinion that political debate was an integral part of the democratic process. Simultaneously, the court added, it was the duty of every citizen, particularly the political leadership, to ensure that the constitutional forums were respected and political debates/discussions were held in conformity with the established democratic principles of tolerance, respect for dissent and fair play.

The chief justice observed that the high court was not the proper forum for raising concerns associated with political instability, turmoil or controversies.

“The proposal is at its initial stage and that it obviously requires legislation by the parliament for its enforcement. The concerns of the petitioner at this stage are, therefore, premature and thus the grievance is based on mere apprehensions,” the court observed.

The chief justice noted that since parliament was yet to debate the matter, he had no reason to doubt that parliament would not consider all the relevant matters and thereafter decide the issue in the best interest of the people of Pakistan.

Also, the ECP enjoyed the status of a constitutional body established under Article 218 of the Constitution, the chief justice noted. He recalled that Sub Article (3) of Article 218 exclusively provides that it shall be the duty of the ECP to organise and conduct elections and to make such arrangements as were necessary to ensure that the elections were conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law and that corrupt practices were guarded against.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2021

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