ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against newly-promulgated Elections (Second Amendment) Ordinance about electronic voting in the elections.
The PML-N MNA, Barrister Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha, on Thursday, filed a petition through advocate Umer Gilani in the IHC, and cited President of Pakistan, federation through Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Secretary Law, and Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as respondents.
The petitioner prayed before the court to declare the Ordinance illegal, unconstitutional being ultra vires Article 89 of the Constitution, and having been promulgated in a mala fide manner.
He also requested to declare that the President’s power to promulgate ordinances can only be used to bring about such legislation which is: (a) necessary to enable the federal government to respond to an emergency situation such as war, famine, epidemic or rebellion which has put the life, liberty or property of the people of Pakistan at stake; (b) where the emergency which is being responded to arose after the prorogation of the last session of Parliament; and (c) where waiting for the commencement of the next session of either house of Parliament would cause irreparable loss of life, liberty or property to the people of Pakistan.
He stated though the Elections (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 is one-page document but it makes important legislative overhauls of the electoral procedure regime in Pakistan.
The petitioner submitted that with the imposition of the Ordinance, Section 103 of the Elections Act, 2017 has been substituted with the following words: “103. Electronic voting. The Commission shall procure electronic voting machines (EVMs), for casting of votes in general elections.”
He contended that in effect, the Ordinance has made EVMs compulsory instead of being optional and has eliminated the role of the Parliament and piloting in this decision.
Umer Gilani, who filed the petition on behalf of the PML-N leader, submitted that the timing of the promulgation of this Ordinance added insult to injury because only two days earlier, the speaker of the National Assembly constituted a parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, so that the government may be able to have an open and informed discussion with those members of the National Assembly who sit on the opposition benches.
“It seems that the promulgation of this particular Ordinance was meant by the respondent to give a stern message to the speaker of the National Assembly that even a semblance of constitutional democracy will not be allowed,” maintained the petition.
The counsel stated that the impugned Ordinance is not a one-off case of abuse of Ordinance-making power.
The website of the National Assembly indicates that since 24th September, 2018, the respondents have promulgated more than 54 Ordinances.
In the first parliamentary year, seven Ordinances were promulgated.
In the second parliamentary year, 30 Ordinances were promulgated.
In the third parliamentary year, which is still continuing, more than 16 Ordinances have already been promulgated and the number is growing daily.
He continued that it appears that the respondents have adopted Ordinance-making as the normal and routine method for legislation, while avoiding parliamentary law-making as far as possible.
He also contended, “This is a facially unconstitutional practice which must be resisted by all those who have taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The Petitioner, who is himself under an oath to defend the Constitution, urges this Honorable Court to discourage this practice through articulating an organic interpretation of Article 89.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021