Objections against delimitations cannot be raised after release of election schedule, rules SC

Published December 18, 2023
The combination photo shows Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah. — SC website
The combination photo shows Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah. — SC website

Removing further impediments in the path of the February 8 polls, the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday ruled that objections could not be raised against the delimitation of constituencies once the election schedule was released.

The order was passed by a three-member apex court bench headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and comprising Justices Mansoor Ali Shah and Athar Minallah on a plea filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

In its petition, the electoral body challenged changes to two constituencies in Zhob and Shirani made by the Balochistan High Court. However, the SC set aside the BHC’s order today and accepted the ECP’s appeal.

During the hearing, Justice Minallah asked how could the court use the authority that lawfully lied with the election commission.

“Challenges to constituencies have all been rendered ineffective after the release of the election schedule,” Justice Shah remarked, highlighting that the electoral process could not be affected to provide relief to an individual.

“We have to draw a line and set a limit in this regard,” the judge added.

Meanwhile, Justice Masood said he did not understand why everyone wanted elections to be delayed. “Let polls take place,” he asserted.

At one point, Justice Minallah said that there would be a “flood of petitions” in the top court if the SC passed an order on the ECP’s plea.

“Everything else comes to a halt once the election schedule is issued,” he said, adding that the electoral body’s biggest test was to ensure fair polls on Feb 8.

The court subsequently declared the BHC decision null and void.

The development comes two days after the ECP released the much-awaited election schedule, after intervention from the top court, ensuring that polls were being held on time.

On Friday, the SC had taken up a hurriedly moved appeal by the ECP against the Lahore High Court’s suspension of the appointment of returning officers and district returning officers from the judiciary, raising concerns that polls would be jeopardised.

During the proceedings, which commenced late in the evening, the apex court had suspended the LHC verdict and directed the electoral body to immediately release the election schedule.

All resources to be used for fair polls in Balochistan: ECP

Meanwhile, Balochistan Election Commissioner Ejaz Anwar Chohan said a day earlier that all resources would be utilised to ensure that elections are conducted in a peaceful, free, fair and transparent manner.

“Holding peaceful elections in Balochistan is a challenge and the Election Commission of Pakistan will fulfil its responsibilities effectively,” he had pledged in an interaction with media in Quetta.

He said police and other security personnel would be deployed at the polling stations, adding that the army would be called in if an untoward situation arose.

“All political parties and candidates participating in the elections would be treated equally,” Chohan had said, adding that a level playing field would be provided to all contesting parties and individuals.

He had also expressed the hope that law enforcement agencies would play a key role in bringing improvement in Balochistan’s security situation.

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