ISLAMABAD: If a bill moved in the National Assembly by the government is passed, the financial powers of the Chief Election Commissioner to sanction and incur expenditure and create posts will no...
ISLAMABAD: If a bill moved in the National Assembly by the government is passed, the financial powers of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) to sanction and incur expenditure and create posts will no longer be subject to various laws and rules.
The proposed law, encompassing wide-ranging electoral reforms, awaits the approval of parliament. An amendment has been suggested in Section 11(2) of the Elections Act, 2017, which dispenses with the requirements of “applicable laws and rules” in the exercise of financial powers by the CEC.
This authority will now be subject only to the provisions relating to the normal audit. The section says the CEC will have full financial powers to sanction and incur expenditure within the approved budgetary allocation, including the creation of posts. However, the CEC will need to remain within the allocated budget. He will be authorised to create posts in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as per requirements.
At the same time, a stringent amendment has been prescribed in Section 172 for ECP personnel. It provides for imprisonment of ECP officials for three years in place of just six months for tampering with ballot papers and other poll material. According to the recommendation, an election official on duty in connection with an election who is guilty of the offence of tampering with papers, is liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with a fine which may extend to Rs100,000 or with both.
Additionally, disciplinary proceedings have been provided for presiding officers who commit certain actions incompatible with the election law.
A new sub-section that is being added says a presiding officer who does not comply with the Elections Act and the rules made under it will be liable to disciplinary proceedings and the imposition of a penalty commensurate with his guilt by the concerned authority under the relevant law applicable to him. Another important amendment says the victory of a candidate will be liable to be undone if he or any person on his behalf connived to violate the poll law to win.
After the incorporation of the proposed amendment, Section 158 reads: “The election tribunal will declare the poll as a whole to be void if it is satisfied that the result has been materially affected by reason of the failure to comply with the Elections Act or the rules in connivance with the returned candidate; or any person on behalf of the returned candidate or the prevalence of extensive corrupt or illegal practices at the election.” Section 20(3), dealing with the “principles of delimitation”, has been proposed to be substituted. The replacement says as far
as possible, variation in the number of enrolled voters of constituencies of a federal or provincial assembly or a local government will not exceed 5pc in any case.
The existing sub-section says as far as possible, variation in the population of constituencies of an assembly or a local government will not ordinarily exceed 10pc. If this limit is exceeded in an exceptional case, the ECP will record reasons in its delimitation order.
A sub-section has also been added to Section 21. It states that any person aggrieved by an ECP decision on delimitation may, within 20 days of the decision, appeal to the Supreme Court.
The bill will be approved by parliament only if there is a consensus between the government and opposition parties. That is because of the numerical scenario in the Senate, which is dominated by the opposition. For the time being, there is no prospect of the two sides holding consultations on the proposed legislation due to the prevailing political confrontation. However, if the two parties decide to discuss the bill, the opposition is likely to recommend several amendments to it.