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September 24, 2018

120-day countdown begins for election tribunals

National

September 24, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The 120-day countdown has begun for twenty election tribunals, comprising serving high court judges, to dispose of the petitions, challenging the July 25 parliamentary polls.

The total number of the petitions submitted to the tribunals is not available as an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) official told The News that they are in the process of collecting the details of the pleas from its provincial offices. The last day to call the elections by individual candidates into question expired on September 22.

It is unclear for now whether or not the final tally of the petitions submitted to the tribunals will match the chorus of rigging done by some political parties. Appeals against the decisions of the tribunals will lie to the Supreme Court. Generally, the election disputes are not settled within the appointed time for various reasons. Some petitions were not even decided till the fresh general elections.

Under the Elections Act, the election petitions must be decided within 120 days of their filing with the tribunals. Section 148 says the trial of such a petition, shall be as nearly as possible in accordance with the procedure applicable under the Code of Civil Procedure to the trial of suits and the presidential evidence law order. The tribunal shall, unless it directs otherwise for reasons to be recorded, order any or all the facts to be proved or disproved by affidavit and may, for the purposes of expeditious disposal, apply such other procedure as the circumstances of the case may warrant.On filing of reply by the respondent, the tribunal may, with the consent of parties, fix specific dates for trial and disposal of the petition, providing for continuous hearing without adjournment. If the parties do not consent to such specific dates the tribunal shall proceed with the trial on day-to-day basis and no adjournment shall be granted to any party for more than seven days and that too on payment of such costs as the tribunal may determine and the petition shall be decided within 120 of its filing.

If a petition is not finally decided within 120 days, further adjournment sought by a party shall be granted only on payment of special costs of Rs10,000 per adjournment, which, however, shall not be granted for more than three days. If the tribunal itself adjourns the petition, it shall record the reasons.

Where the delay is occasioned by any act or omission of a returned candidate or any other person acting on his behalf, the tribunal itself or on application of the aggrieved party, may, after issuance of show cause notice to the returned candidate and within 15 days of the date of show cause notice, order that the returned candidate has ceased to perform the functions of his office either till the conclusion of the proceedings or for such period as the tribunal may direct. If a serving judge is the tribunal, the ECP shall request the high court chief justice that no judicial work other than election petitions should, to the extent practicable, be entrusted to him till the final disposal of the election petitions.

The tribunal may, for reasons to be recorded, refuse to examine any witness if it is of the opinion that the evidence of such witness is not material for the decision of the petition or that the party on whose behalf such witness has been summoned has done so on frivolous grounds or with a view to delaying the proceedings.

No document shall be inadmissible in evidence at the trial of a petition only on the ground that it is not properly stamped or registered under the relevant law. A witness shall not be excused from answering any question as to any matter in issue or relevant to a matter in issue in the trial of an election petition upon the ground that the answer to such question may incriminate or tend to incriminate him or that it may expose or tend to expose him to any penalty or forfeiture, but a witness shall not be required or permitted to state for whom he has voted at an election.

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