ISLAMABAD: A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday to hold the elections for reserved seats as well as for the offices of mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and vice-chairmen in Sindh through a secret ballot within 60 days.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, while partially allowing the appeal of the Sindh government against the Sindh High Court’s order of February 10, ruled: “The amendment brought into effect by Sindh Local Government (Third Amendment) Act, 2015 (Sindh Act No XXXVIII of 2015) with effect from August 25, 2015 as regards introduction of 5 percent reserved seats for ‘Youth’ and increase reserved seats for women from 22 percent to 33 percent, is held to be validly legislated, thus, to remain operative.”
The reasons for the order will be issued separately.
The four-page-long short order stated that all notifications regarding transfers and posting of bureaucrats issued by the appellant, the Sindh government, after announcing the election schedule without getting a prior approval from the Election Commission of Pakistan, were declared to be without jurisdiction and of no legal effect.
“All the reserved seats as prescribed under Section 18 shall be filled up in terms of Section 18A of the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, which will be revived and such amendment will be brought into effect by the government immediately,” stated the verdict.
However, the apex court also held that if the proposed amendment was not made within two weeks then the reserved seats would be filled up by law as prescribed. “In case requisite legislative amendment is not made within two weeks, these seats shall be filled up in the manner as otherwise prescribed by law,” judgment ruled.
The court also ruled that even though the government had the right to legislate law to hold such elections either by show of hands or secret ballot, but in the present case the amendment was made after the announcement of the election schedule which was of no legal effect.
“It is within the competence of the Sindh Government to legislate law to hold such elections either through show of hands or secret ballot, however, in the present case, such amendment has been brought into effect on January 18, 2016, after the announcement of Election Schedule on August 26, 2015, therefore, such amendment is of no legal effect, and as per the Sindh Act No.XXXVIII of 2015, the ensuing elections for these posts will be held through secret ballot, the judgment read.
The court has asked the ECP to ensure completion of remaining election process of local bodies in Sindh for the reserved seats as well as for the office of Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Chairman and Vice Chairman within 60 days.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2016.