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February 25, 2021

Court interpretation not needed for secret or open ballot: Barrister Salahuddin

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February 25, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Counsel for the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) Barrister Salahuddin said in his arguments in the Supreme Court during the hearing of presidential reference on Senate polls that the court interpretation is not needed for secret or open ballot.

Barrister Salahuddin said that to some extent opening the vote is not appropriate. He argued that the very fear of voter that the vote information would be made public is enough. He said the government is "dumping its political responsibilities on to the court". Salahuddin said an amendment bill on open balloting has been pending in the Parliament. He said arguments made by the Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan were not based on what the Constitution is, rather on what it should be.

"The attorney general spoke of bags full of money and videos on which the court could not provide a ruling. The government had originally approached the court to seek an opinion, but no opinion was taken," he said.

He said the attorney general, as well as the advocate generals from all the provinces, spoke in favour of open balloting, but none sought the court's opinion.

"It seems the government is not interested in an opinion. It only wants the open balloting method to be ratified," said the barrister.

Recommending that the court not get involved in such matters, Salahuddin said that in the past, references were filed due to a gap in the Constitution, whereas now, no such void exists.

He said in the past, the Supreme Court of Pakistan kept itself distant and declared that it was up to the Parliament whether or not to recognise Bangladesh as a state, after the partition of West Pakistan.

The barrister also cited the example of the Babri Mosque's demolition. He said the Indian government had sought the opinion of the court on the future of the site but the court in 1992 had wisely refused to taken upon itself such a burden.

Barrister Salahuddin said the Constitution is silent on the National Assembly Speaker's elections and the details are only available in the election rules. He said that even then, if the Speaker's election can be held in accordance with the Constitution, then why not the Senate elections.

Salahuddin said the Constitution makes no mention of ballot papers. He asked whether the end of the Election Act 2017 would mean an end for Senate elections.