• SHC disposes of 50 petitions against provisional results of Feb 8 polls
• Directs poll supervisory body to scrutinise record to resolve ‘discrepancy’ in Form-45, Form-47
• Orders ECP to announce decisions before Feb 22 through ‘speaking orders’

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday disposed of around 50 petitions against provisional results of elections on as many seats of the National Assembly and provincial assembly and directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to decide the petitioners’ complaints through speaking orders before Feb 22.

About issues regarding consolidation of results, the SHC ordered the ECP to resolve any discrepancy in Form-45 and Form-47 (provisional results) after scrutinising the record available with the ECP or provided by the petitioners.

A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi ruled that the aggrieved parties would be at liberty to seek remedy as available to them under the electoral law by approaching the relevant forum including election tribunals in case of any other grievances.

On Feb 12, the bench had partially heard arguments about the maintainability of 45 petitions, mainly filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-backed independent candidates against provisional results on 16 NA and over 20 PA seats in the city. Various candidates of the Jamaat-i-Islami and Pakistan Peoples Party had also filed identical petitions.

Five more identical petitions were also filed in SHC on Tuesday, including four by PTI-backed candidates, impugning Form-47 of two more NA and as many PA seats in the city. A JI candidate also petitioned the SHC against the provisional result of a PA seat.

The PTI challenged the victory of 15 Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), including senior party leaders Dr Khaliq Maqbool Siddiqui, Mustafa Kamal and Farooq Sattar, and three Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidates on total 18 NA seats in the metropolis.

The petitioners asked the SHC to declare the impugned Form-47 void and sought directive for the ECP and other respondents to rectify the same in accordance with Form-45 collected by their elections agents from the polling stations.

When the bench jointly took up all these petitions for hearing on Tuesday, the lawyers for petitioners and respondents as well as federal and provincial law officers and counsel for the ECP advanced their arguments.

The federal and provincial law officers contended that the Lahore High Court had dismissed identical petitions for not being maintainable while the lawyers for the ECP stated that the election watchdog had established a complaint cell to address such issues.

The bench in it order disposed of all the petitions with certain directives.

“All the petitioners before us, who have expressed their common grievance to the effect that there has been violation of the provisions of Sections 92 and 95 of the Elections Act, 2017, while preparing consolidated results in the shape of Form-47 issued by the returning officers, do not tally with the results in the shape of Form-45 issued by the presiding officers of the polling stations, shall be considered as complaint(s) in terms of Sections 8 and 9 of the Elections Act, 2017 before the Election Commission of Pakistan, copies of which have been supplied/sent through email etc to Election Commission of Pakistan, who shall decide such complaint(s) after hearing all the necessary parties expeditiously, however, before the cut of date for issuance of notification in terms of Section 98(1) [declaration of results] of the Election Act, 2017 i.e. 22nd February 2024 through speaking order(s),” the bench stated in the order.

The bench also noted that the issue regarding consolidation of the results and any discrepancy in Form-45 and Form-47 either made in the presence or absence of the petitioners, or their representatives shall be resolved by the ECP after scrutiny of the records — Form-45 and Form-47 — available with the ECP or as may be produced by the petitioners.

“In case of any further grievance, the aggrieved parties will be at liberty to seek their remedy as available to them under the Elections Act, 2017 by approaching the relevant forum, including tribunal, etc. constituted for such purposes in accordance with law,” it concluded.

The PTI candidates challenged the provisional results of NA-231, NA-232, NA-234, NA-235, NA-237, NA-238, NA-239, NA-240, NA-241, NA-242, NA-244, NA-245, NA-247, NA-248, NA-249 and NA-250.

The petitioners argued that that as per Form-45, obtained by their polling agents from presiding officers at all the polling stations of the constituencies in questions, they were leading with big margins, but the results were changed at the offices of the returning officers and candidates of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and PPP were shown winners in Form-47 (provisional results).

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2024

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