Senate elections to be held through secret ballot under Article 226: SC

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Islamabad (Staff Report/Agencies): The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday announced that Senate elections would be held through secret balloting under Article 226 of the Constitution.

A five-member larger bench of the apex court — headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising justices Mushir Alam, Umar Ata Bandial, Ijazul Ahsan and Yahya Afridi — announced the reserved opinion in the open court with 4-1 majority. Justice Yahya Afridi has dissented with the majority opinion.

However, the top court in its opinion, maintained that the Election Commission of Pakistan is empowered to take all measures to curb corrupt practices under Article 218 (3).

President Dr Arif Alvi through Attorney General for Pakistan had filed reference under Article 186 of the Constitution, seeking opinion of the apex court as to whether the Senate elections are held under the Constitution (Article 226) or under the law (Election Act 2017).

The government had tabled a constitution amendment bill in parliament to introduce open ballot but it vain.

Earlier, the CJP observed that it is Parliament’s prerogative to decide whether or not to use secret balloting in the Senate polls.

The CJP said, “It is the parliament that will decide whether or not the voting should be secret; we will not take over the parliament's right.” He maintained that the court will not issue an opinion on the promulgation of the ordinance.

The CJP said the court had three questions.

Is Article 226 applicable to the Senate elections or not?

Can proportional representation be done through single transferable vote?

Are elections conducted according to the Constitution secret?

The chief justice said that the apex court will only respond to the questions asked in the presidential reference on the matter.