SC to issue verdict on presidential reference for Senate elections on March 1

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan will issue its verdict on a presidential ordinance seeking an open ballot in the upcoming Senate elections on March 1 (Monday).

According to the details, Supreme Court on Thursday concluded its proceedings on presidential reference seeking legal opinion to hold Senate elections on the open ballot without a constitutional amendment and reserved its decision in the case.

The case was heard by a five-judge larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed.

While hearing the case earlier, the CJP had remarked that it was up to the Parliament to decide whether balloting in the Senate should be open or secret.

Meanwhile, the attorney for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Sajeel Swati, requested the bench to announce its opinion by February 28, to make relevant arrangements for the Senate elections which are scheduled for March 3.

The federal government through Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan filed the presidential reference under Article 186 of the Constitution, seeking the opinion of the apex court as to whether the Senate elections are held under the Constitution (Article 226) or the law (Election Act 2017).

This comes as President Arif Alvi signed the Elections (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 to pave the way for Senate elections to be held via an “open and identifiable ballot.”

According to the Ordinance, a copy of which has been shared by the president on his Twitter account, changes have been brought to Sections 81, 122 and 185 of the Elections Act, 2017.

The Ordinance will come into effect “at once” and “extend to the whole of Pakistan.”

Amendment of section 81, Act XXXIII of 2017 – “In the Elections Act, 2017 (XXXIII of 2017) in section 81, in sub-section (1), for the word “an”, the expression “subject to section 122, an” shall be substituted.

Amendment of section 122, Act XXXIII of 2017 – “In the said Act, in section 122, in sub-section (6), for the full stop at the end. a colon shall be substituted and thereafter. the following two provisos shall be added: “Provided that in case the Supreme Court of Pakistan gives an opinion in Reference No 1 of 2021 filed under Article 186 of the Constitution that elections for the members of Senate do not fall within the purview of Article 226 of the Constitution, the poll for elections for members of the Senate to be held in March 2021 and thereafter shall be conducted by the Commission through the open and identifiable ballot. “Provided further that after the elections for members of Senate, if the head of the political party requests the Commission to show the ballot cast by any voting member of his party, the Commission shall show the same to the head of the political party or his nominee.”

Amendment of section 185, Act XXXIII of 2017 – “In the said Act, in section 185, for the word “an”, the expression “subject to section 122, an” shall be substituted,” the presidential ordinance added.

According to Section 226 of the Constitution: “All elections under the Constitution, other than those of the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister, shall be by secret ballot.”

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