ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to carry out a proper and complete door-to-door verification process of voters’ lists in Karachi with the assistance of the Pakistan Army and the Frontier Constabulary (FC).
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed announced judgment in identical petitions filed by PTI chairman Imran Khan, the PML-N and JI, seeking verification of voters’ lists in Karachi.
The 24-page judgment, authored by Justice Azmat Saeed, ruled that in view of the peculiar security situation in Karachi, such verification must be carried out by the Election Commission with the help and assistance of the Pakistan Army and FC.
Earlier, the court on November 28 had reserved judgment in the case after hearing both the parties.
The court had accepted the concerns shown by the PPP, JI and PTI about the shifting of voters’ names from Karachi to other provinces and directed the ECP to examine the matter about the registration of votes on the consent of people in Karachi.
The court had directed the ECP to examine the possibility of reverting the names of the voters to Karachi where theirnames were previously recorded.
On Wednesday, the court in its judgment ruled that it is clear the voters’ lists of Karachi are required to be revised by the ECP in exercise of powers conferred upon it under article 219 of the Constitution read with the Electoral Rolls Act, 1974 to achieve the objective, which is to be ensured by the commission in terms of article 218 of the Constitution.
“There can be no escape from the fact that a free, fair, just and transparent election is at the very heart of our democratic system, as envisaged by the Constitution,” says the judgment. The court held that such elections must not only be held in a fair, just and honest manner but also appear to be so in order to inspire the confidence of the electorate.
The judgment further ruled that the provisions of article 219 of the Constitution and the Electoral Rolls Act, 1974 and rules framed thereunder must necessarily be interpreted in a manner so as to achieve the said object. Consequently, the ECP must fulfil its obligation cast upon it by article 218 of the Constitution of ensuring holding free, fair and transparent elections and to achieve such purpose seek assistance, if necessary, from the executive authorities in the federation in this behalf which are obliged to render such assistance by virtue of article 220 of the Constitution.
“There is no denial of the fact that free, fair, honest, transparent and just elections is the demand of the day as the parliamentary system of the country is being strengthened day by day,” the court ruled, adding that all eligible citizens have a fundamental right of franchise, which must be protected by issuing appropriate directions.
The judgment cited the case of Prem Kevalram Shahani vs the Government of Pakistan (PLD 1989 Karachi 123) wherein it has been held that a plain reading of article 218 shows that its clauses (1) and (2) provide the constitution of the commission and its composition, whereas clause (3) provides its duties, namely, that it shall be the duty of the Election Commission in relation to an election 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, whereas article 219 lays down the duties of the commission, namely, preparing electoral rolls for election to the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies and revising such rolls annually, organising and conducting election to the Senate or to fill casual vacancies in a house or a provincial assembly and appointing election tribunals.
The verdict observed that Karachi has a peculiar background, which includes a serious law and order situation, and detailed stock of the same has been taken by this court in the case of Watan Party v. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2011 SC 997).
“An accurate electoral roll is a sine quo non for the holding of a free, fair and transparent election, which is not only the command of the constitution but also a fundamental right of the citizens, which appears to have been compromised qua the residents of Karachi,” the verdict ruled.