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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) disposed of a writ petition seeking directions for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to submit a report regarding its objection against holding of the election 2023 by using electronic voting machine (EVM).

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah, on Wednesday, heard the petition filed by Tariq Asad advocate.

The bench after hearing the arguments disposed of the petition in limine.

The chief justice stated in his verdict, if the petitioner wants to obtain copy of the objections raised by the ECP regarding the EVMs, then he would be at liberty to invoke the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 2000.

He added, “The instant petition is; therefore, accordingly disposed of in limine.”

Justice Minallah stated that the petitioner, who is a public spirited citizen and an enrolled advocate of the apex court, has laid great stress regarding his concerns relating to the political instability and turmoil created because of the proposal to hold elections through the EVMs.

“Political debate is an integral part of the democratic process but simultaneously, it is the duty of every citizen, particularly the political leadership to ensure that the constitutional forums are respected and political debates/ discussions are held in conformity with the established democratic principles of tolerance, respect for dissent and fair play. A High Court is not the proper forum for raising concerns associated with political instability, turmoil or controversies. The petitioner surely reposes trust and confidence in the Parliament,” said the order.

The IHC CJ added the ECP enjoys the status of a constitutional body established under Article 218 of the Constitutional 1973.

Sub Article (3) of Article 218 exclusively provides that it shall be the duty of the ECP to organise and conduct the election and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly, and in accordance with law, and that corrupt practices are guarded against.

It is; therefore, the constitutional duty of the ECP to ensure that the elections are conducted in a fair, honest, and transparent manner.

This Court also has no reason to doubt that the concerns and objections raised by the ECP would not be taken into consideration by the Parliament, whenever the latter considers the proposed legislation relating to conduct of elections through the EVMs.

The IHC CJ also noted, “The use of the electronic voting machines during elections is not an alien phenomenon because it has already been introduced in some other countries. However, the proposal is at its initial stage and that it obviously requires legislation by the Parliament for its enforcement.”

“The concerns of the petitioner at this stage are; therefore, pre-mature and thus the grievance is based on mere apprehensions. The Parliament has yet to debate and legislate regarding holding of elections through the electronic voting machines. This Court has no reason to doubt that Parliament would not consider all the relevant matters and thereafter decide the issue in the best interest of the people of Pakistan,” maintained the IHC CJ.

In his petition, Tariq Asad advocate prayed before the court it may direct the ECP to file its report regarding all its 37 objections against holding of the election 2023 by EVM and/or other comments, if any, before this court, so that this after hearing the parties, it may pass an order in the better interest of the country.

Asad had requested the court to suggest the federal government to hold a referendum among the people of Pakistan, “whether election may be held by EVM” as this is the most important national issue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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