Amendments to elections laws challenged in apex court

Published November 28, 2021
This file photo shows the Supreme Court of Pakistan. — AFP/File
This file photo shows the Supreme Court of Pakistan. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has been asked to declare void and of no legal affect recent amendments to the elections laws that allow the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in general elections.

“The wholesale amendments were never put to any debate and were simply bulldozed into the Election Laws, to enable the most suspected massive rigging of the general election, including other elections conducted by the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC),” pleads a petition filed by a concerned citizen, Saleemullah Khan, in person.

On November 17, a joint session of the parliament passed a record 33 bills in a single day, including the controversial bill on the use of EVMs in elections, the petition says, adding that the amendment is against the spirit of the Constitu­tion and the law the amendment has replaced.

The petition argues that the law makes a distinction between an amendment and an entire substitution, and that the substitutions made are an act of doing away with the original provisions pertaining to elections to be held, in future, in Pakistan.

The amendment has been made with mala fide intent and in contravention of the Constitution and is bound to open the floodgate of election rigging, the petition fears, adding that the amendment would ultimately create confusion in the country.

It says that computer literacy in Pakistan is so low that the use of EVMs in polls is bound to let loose an avalanche of mistakes on the part of illiterate and partially literate voters, which would only benefit the ruling party, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf that has grown highly unpopular.

The amendment does away with the initial pilot projects, which were envisaged in the pre-amendment law, even otherwise, the amendment is “practically impossible”, it says.

Moreover, the cost of EVMs is much higher than its benefits, if any, and it entails huge concomitant cost and ills and risks, the petition says. The amendment is confusing and raises many pertinent questions relating to its implementation, it says.

Moreover, the authority of chief election commissioner (CEC) has been reduced, curtailed and abridged through the amendment, in contravention of the Constitution, the petition fears. It says that the objections raised by the Election Commission of Pakistan have been ignored and trampled over.

Besides, different opposition parties were never taken on board while passing the law, the petition says, adding that the amendment to Section-94 of the election act is strangely silent as to how overseas Pakistanis would exercise their vote from their countries of residence.

The government in the joint session of the parliament was in such an ugly haste in its act of bulldozing the election amendments that the mistakes of English language stand out like a sore thumb in the amendment in Section-103, the petition says.

The National Database and Registra­tion Authority has been made to usurp upon the jurisdiction, authority and independence of the CEC, which the Constitution does not permit, it adds.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2021

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