The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued notices to the Federation, Election Commission secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice secretary as well as other parties seeking replies on a petition filed against the presidential ordinance on making electronic voting machines mandatory in the elections and enabling overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes.
Last month, President Arif Alvi promulgated the Elections (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, under Article 89 of the Constitution only two days after National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser constituted a committee of cabinet members to engage the opposition on the issue of electoral reforms.
Through the ordinance, the president introduced amendments to Section 94(1) and Section 103 of the Elections Act 2017 for electronic voting and enabling overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes.
Justice Amir Farooq heard the petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha through his counsel Omar Ijaz Gilani on Friday.
The court also issued a notice to Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan for judicial assistance on the important legal issue.
The court also directed to club the case with the cases against the presidential ordinance already pending and send the file to the chief justice for formation of a bench.
At the onset of the proceedings, lawyer Gilani apprised the court that the presidential ordinance on EVMs has been challenged, as “such an ordinance cannot be issued under Article 89”.
Justice Farooq inquired whether the ordinance was not published in the gazette notification.
Gilani said that he saw the website of the Printing Corporation of Pakistan but did not see it there. Thus, “by issuing this ordinance, the authority was exceeded”.
“So far this government has issued 54 ordinances and Article 89 can only be used when there is an emergency,” Gilani said, adding that the issue of issuing ordinances is not limited to this government but this power has always been misused.
Justice Amir Farooq asked how long does the ordinance last.
Gilani replied that the ordinance is for 120 days and the period can be extended once.
“An ordinance can only be issued if there is no session of parliament and there is an emergency.”
Justice Farooq remarked that the legislature is the one that represents the people.
Gilani said, “We did not challenge any ordinance which was done in case of an emergency.”
Justice Farooq adjourned the hearing.