17 January 2021
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The Supreme Court said the Constitution does not mention the procedure to hold Senate elections.

A five-member larger bench of the court, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, resumed hearing on Wednesday the presidential reference on holding an open ballot for the upcoming elections.

Article 60 of the Constitution mentions the election of the Senate chairperson, and Article 53 focuses on the election of the speaker of the National Assembly, the court was informed.

The Constitution does not mention the procedure, remarked Justice Ahmed.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that articles 53 and 60 don’t even mention if the elections should be held through an open or secret ballot.

The attorney general said the Senate chairperson and National Assembly speaker are elected through secret voting under Article 266. He said an elected parliament is supposed to hold elections for the speaker after coming into power.

Senate elections

The controversy surrounding the Senate elections started when on December 15 the PTI government decided to hold the elections in February, instead of March. Following this, a debate was stirred in the cabinet regarding whether the government had the constitutional right to change the election date.

The federal government also decided to hold the Senate election through a show of hands. The decision was made during a meeting of the federal cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

On December 22 the Election Commission clarified that Senate elections 2021 will not be held before February 10.

Various statements were issued over the Senate elections and certain opinions were expressed over the authority of the ECP, which created ambiguity, a statement by the ECP stated.

“Till now, the commission had issued no statement, but now it feels there is a need to provide legal and constitutional clarity over the matter.”

The commission said half the Senate members will retire on March 11, 2021 after completing their term. It pointed out that under Article 224(3) of the Constitution, the elections “shall be held not earlier than 30 days immediately preceding the day on which the vacancies are due to occur”.

Senate elections are held every three years and only the commission has the authority to organise them. The process is, however, spread over phases and takes roughly a month to conclude.

Abdul Gh Lone