IHC rejects plea against changes to Elections Act

Published June 28, 2022
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah —  Photo via IHC website/File
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah — Photo via IHC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday dismissed a petition challenging the repeal of a clause related to holding of elections through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the Elections Act, 2017 and observed that the right of overseas Pakistanis to cast vote is still intact in the legislation.

The order was issued by Chief Justice Athar Minallah on a petition filed against the recent amendments to the Elections Act, 2017 regarding right to vote to overseas Pakistanis and use of EVMs in the next election.

The petitioners assailed vires of Section 94 inserted in the Elections Act through the Elections (Amendment) Act, 2022. The amended provision stated, “The commission may conduct pilot projects for voting by overseas Pakistanis in by-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security and financial feasibility of such voting and shall share the results with the government.” The repealed provision which was inserted in the Act of 2017 through the Elections (Amendment) Act, 2021 was “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or rules made there under, the Election Commission of Pakistan shall, with the technical assistance of National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), any other authority or agency, enable overseas Pakistanis, in prescribed manner, subject to secrecy and security, to exercise their right to vote during general elections in Pakistan.”

The court in its order drew attention of the petitioner towards the judgement of the Supreme Court that issued guidelines for voting rights of expatriates and disposed of identical petitions, with the observation that let ECP make all possible efforts to achieve the object.

The IHC chief justice noted that the ECP was allowed to direct exclusion of overseas votes from the final count if it was of the opinion that the technical efficacy, secrecy and security of voting had not been maintained or had for any reason been compromised. “This clearly suggests that overseas votes are to be included in the result of the by-elections unless excluded by the ECP for valid reasons,” he observed.

The IHC noted that the SC held that the overseas Pakistanis had been conferred the right to vote as per interpretation of Article 17 of the Constitution.

Explaining that the amended law also unequivocally acknowledged the right of overseas Pakistanis to vote in the elections, the chief justice noted that the court was satisfied that no case was made out to strike down the amended section.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2022

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