Orders ECP to redraft nomination papers; BHC, IHC cancel delimitations of multiple constituencies
LAHORE / QUETTA / ISLAMABAD: In a development that may potentially delay the upcoming polls scheduled for July 25, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday declared the new nomination papers made by parliament against Article 62, 63 of the Constitution and directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to redraft them.
The LHC judge Justice Ayesha A Malik on Friday issued the verdict earlier reserved on petitions filed through advocate Saad Rasool. Challenging the section 60, 110 and 137b of the Election Act, the petitioners had argued that parliament was not competent enough to draft the forms for candidates as it was the job of the ECP.
The petitioners contended that the candidates taking part in the elections had been protected by the new changes in the forms, as a result of which the voters would not be able to know about the candidates they were voting for. The petitioners asked the court to declare the impugned forms unconstitutional.
They said to make an informed decision the voters required basic information about a candidate which include information about educational qualifications, profession and/or business/jobs held, travel abroad, Justice Malik further held.
Voters also require information to establish the credibility of a candidate meaning thereby information about dual nationality, agriculture tax paid, income tax paid, loan default, criminal record and information of assets and liabilities, the petition contended.
Partially accepting the petitions, Justice Malik ruled that the new forms made by parliament did not provide mandatory information and declarations as required by the Constitution and the law.
“The term ‘dependent children’ used in the Election Act 2017, specifically in sections 60, 110 and 137 and in Form A and Form B is held to be read down to be construed and interpreted in terms of the constitutional requirement provided for in Article 63(1)(n) and (o) of the Constitution,” she noted.
However, Justice Malik dismissed the argument which had questioned the competency of parliament to draft the impugned forms as they became part of the Act.
“The ECP is empowered to add or improve Form-A and Form-B of the Act so as to fulfill its constitutional mandate of ensuring honest, just and fair elections,” the judgment said.
During the proceedings, the ECP Director Legal Umar Hayat also informed the court that the ECP always made the nomination papers and several judgments of the Supreme Court had empowered it to do so.
The officer said the changes in question were done beyond the mandate of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms.
He said the ECP objected to the new changes in the nomination papers and made requests to parliamentary committee to hear its opinion before finalising any draft but its request was not entertained. He also said the ECP was not satisfied with the changes made in the new forms as vital information was ignored which was mandatory under the law.
The Federal Law Officer Zikria Sheikh implored that drafting of forms was a consultative process and it was without any mala fide on the part of the legislature. He said the Form-A and Form-B were made after long consultative process and with all parties’ consensus on it.
Zikria said election process could not be started without nomination papers and all necessary and relevant information was available for the voter in the current Form-A and Form-B for knowledge of the voters as well as the credibility of the candidates.
He opposed the petitioners’ arguments saying there was nothing wrong with the nomination papers, and many efforts were made for the law and that law should not be set aside.
IHC nullifies Abbottabad’s delimitation
Separately, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) also declared as void the ECP’s April 13 order and annulled delimitations of the Khyber Pakhtunkwa’s (K-P) Abbottabad district while issuing verdict on a petition filed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Murtaza Javed Abbasi.
The constituencies whose delimitations have been annulled include National Assembly’s NA-15 and NA-16, and the provincial assembly’s PK-37 and PK-38 seats. The IHC judge, Aamer Farooq, however, dismissed petitions to nullify delimitations of four other districts including Multan, Vehari, Silakot and Rahim Yar Khan.
BHC nullifies delimitation of 8 constituencies
The Balochistna High Court (BHC) on Friday also nullified new delimitations of 8 constituencies of Balochistan and ordered the ECP to review the area and issue new delimitation.
A BHC divisional bench, comprising Justice Naeem Akhter Afghan and Justice Abdullah Baloch, directed the ECP to review flaws in the newly issued delimitation and ordered to reorganise delimitation according to population of the areas.
Hearing various petition filed by former MPAs and MNAs including Jam Kamal and Sardar Kamal Khan Bangulzai, the BHC nullified delimitation Quetta-I PB 24, II PB 25, III PB 26, IV PB 27, V PB 28, VI PB 29 VII PB 30, IX PB 31.
Balochistan Assembly on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution tabled by former home minister Sarfaraz Bugti seeking one month delay in election.