Karachi law and order case: ECP plea for deferral of delimitation order rejected

SC says election commission’s application for avoiding implementation of orders is based on ‘misleading’...


Naeem Sahoutara February 27, 2013
If delimitation is undertaken, it might result in a delay of the upcoming election, says paracha. PHOTO: EXPRESS/Rashid Ajmeri

KARACHI:


The Supreme Court dismissed on Wednesday the Election Commission of Pakistan’s plea to defer its observations regarding the delimitation of Karachi’s electoral constituencies, saying it was based on “misleading and misconceived” grounds.


An apex court bench passed the order during a hearing of the Karachi law and order implementation case on Wednesday.

In earlier proceedings last year, the regional director general of the ECP had insisted that delimitation of Karachi’s constituencies could not be undertaken due to constitutional and legal bars, adding that the exercise required a fresh census.

However, ECP Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan took a different stance, conceding that neither Article 51(3) of the Constitution nor section 7 of the Delimitation of the Constituencies Act 1974 posed a hurdle in compliance with the court orders.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, the apex court overruled objections of the ECP regarding legal bars on undertaking the exercise under Article 51(3) of the Constitution and section 7 of the Constituencies Act, saying they were related to the allocation of seats to the provinces.



ECP’s lawyer Munir Paracha contended that the commission had sought proposals from concerned parties regarding the delimitation, and added that the political parties “proposed new constituencies for a single ethnicity and excluding others.” This, he argued, was in stark contrast to the intent of the apex court’s order passed last year, which encouraged all communities to live together in peace and harmony.

Thus, it had become evident that any delimitation exercise in light of the proposals received by the ECP would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the court’s order, he argued. He went on to pray the court to defer its observations until a fresh census was undertaken.

The bench, however, said that section 10-A of the Act empowers the commission to make amendments in the final list of constituencies “as it thinks necessary” but in line with the principle of natural justice to make arbitrary modifications to delimitation of constituencies without the new census. “It means that the section 10-A of the Act empowers the election commission to undertake the exercise on its own,” noted Justice Khilji Arif Hussain.

Changing his stance, Paracha said since only 76 days were left till the upcoming general elections were announced, delimitation could not be undertaken. Secondly, he said, the Supreme Court observed that the ECP “may” undertake delimitation, which is not binding on the ECP.

Justice Jamali noted when the election commission says that the upcoming election would determine the destiny of the country, then it must realise its constitutional responsibility. He added the court had used respectable words for the election commission, but it may not be misunderstood to avoid implementation.

In a third attempt, Paracha said if delimitation is undertaken, it might result in a delay of the upcoming election.

“No one will be allowed to delay the elections,” remarked Justice Khilji Arif Hussain. “The Supreme Court has never passed any order for delaying the election. One shouldn’t even dream of it,” he added.

The bench observed that the ECP’s application was ‘blind’, and observed that “the grounds taken in the application for avoiding implementation of the orders of the Supreme Court were misleading and misconceived without any substance.”

It also noted that the only thing hindering the implementation of the court’s order was the will of the government and the will of the election commission.

Furthermore, the irked bench asked the ECP counsel why action was not taken against the commission’s director general, “who is playing in the hands of someone else.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2013.

COMMENTS (3)

Pakistani | 8 years ago | Reply We have a man of integrity as a Chief Election Commissioner and his observation on the issue of delimitation should be accepted and honoured. He is trying to do a good job under difficult circumstances and others should check their tendency to pile up too much pressure on him: the parliamentarians have already formed a group to pressurize him. The saner elements should at least try not to frustrate him so much that he gives up in utter disgust, and we get deprived of whatever good he could have done. - Karachi
Usman | 8 years ago | Reply

Sometimes it seems like the Supreme Court is the only institution that really cares about Free and Fair elections. The ECP is to prone to buckling under pressure and I have not seen any clear leadership from the CEC on important issues, eg. delimitation, and pre-poll rigging. Unless the CEC starts taking some tough measures, the same criminals will come into power in the next elections and I can see now, most people will blame the ECP for not ensuring free and fair elections. . On the issue of delimitation, limitation of boundaries it was a political move that would've benefitted one and only one political party, the MQM. It needs to be removed to ensure there is no unfair advantage given to any one political party. ECP should stop dragging its feet on the matter and get started.

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