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Preparation of electoral rolls: Supreme Court asks EC to explain reason behind delay

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to inform it why preparation of electoral rolls was delayed, whereas the Commission was also ordered to submit a report about the progress made for preparation of electoral rolls so far on Wednesday.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said in his remarks that four former judges and Chief Election Commissioner are working in the ECP, who are capable members. He said that the preparation of electoral lists should not be taken easily and the task can be delegated to National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), if the ECP failed to compile the lists.

A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Tariq Pervaiz and Justice Ijaz Chaudhry was hearing the constitutional petition filed by Chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, regarding voters' lists. During the course of hearing the CJP said that the 'doctrine of necessity' "has been buried and now government officials have to decide whether they want to follow the constitution or not as there was no mid way".

He further remarked that for the time being there would be problem in following the constitution. However, it would strengthen the institutions and create transparency in the national affairs. The SC also instructed the Secretary to attach Imran's constitutional petition along with Benazir's petition. Hamid Khan, counsel for Imran, argued that ECP was supposed to complete the voters' lists by December 16, but it had not even tabulated the interim lists so far.

On the occasion, Joint Secretary, Election Commission, Sher Afgan, apprised the bench that preparation of new voters' lists was extended with consultation of all political parties. The Chief Justice said it was violation of the court order, as time was extended without permission of the court. Sher Afgan replied that he had informed the Registrar of SC about the extension of timeframe.

The CJP noted that all over the world the Election Commission is responsible to prepare voters' lists at one-month notice. He questioned: "If tomorrow the government announces the election schedule, then what the Election Commission would do?" The court inquired from the Secretary what the ECP had done about those candidates elected in by-elections in the absence of Election Commission under the 18th Amendment.

The Secretary replied that the Election Commission, whose formation has now been completed, held that by-elections under the old system should be considered the past. The Chief Justice said that doctrine of necessity has been buried. He said that rules were violated in by-elections. Therefore, successful candidates could be declared ineligible. The court asked the Secretary to submit comprehensive details, and adjourned the hearing to Wednesday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2011