ISLAMABAD – To ensure that all elections witness a substantial and effective participation of the electorate, the Supreme Court has ordered the election commission to take all necessary steps to make voting compulsory in Pakistan as early as possible.An 87-page judgment delivered in a case of electoral reforms contains sweeping directions that if implemented in their true spirit would change the whole election culture and bring in the much-needed transparency in the electoral processes.The Wattan Party had filed a petition and later the ANP, MQM, PML-Q, PML-N, PTI, APP and SUP also became parties to the case. After hearing the case for nine days, a three-member SC bench had reserved its judgment on April 20.The judgement, authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, says that in the ‘First Past the Post’ system of election, the winning candidate does not receive an absolute majority of all the votes cast. Therefore, the ECP may explore ways and means to introduce appropriate system of election including ‘run-off election’ to ensure true representation of the people and rule of the majority.It directs the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to take all necessary steps to check the violation of limits set for campaign finance, bribery, holding of processions and use of loudspeakers, besides ensuring that in no case the candidates are allowed to hire/use private transport on the election day.The court observed in the verdict that the constitution mandates the commission to organise and conduct the election and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, and that corrupt practices are guarded against, but unfortunately the said mandate has not been properly fulfilled in the past.It has therefore directed the ECP to frame rules and issue instructions to ensure that the elections are conducted justly, fairly, honestly and in accordance with law and that corrupt practices are guarded against. “All the election laws be strictly implemented by the election commission in the discharge of its constitutional mandate under article 218(3) of the constitution, Representation of the People Act and other laws/rules.”“The commission must undertake monitoring of election expenses from the day the holding of election is notified. A candidate must account for all the expenses immediately after the election is over. The Declaration Form should also include; “I have opened account number with name & branch of a scheduled bank and deposited therein the amount permissible for election expenses. All election expenditures shall be made out of the money already deposited in that account. No transaction towards the election expenses shall be made through an account other than that account.”The judgement says the ECP must hold meetings with the candidates and apprise them of the relevant laws/rules, receive from them statements of expenses on weekly basis by engaging election staff and carry out inspection at random at different places. All transactions relating to election expenses should be entered into with GST registered firms/persons.To facilitate the voters, the number of polling stations may be increased appropriately throughout the country so that the polling stations are not at a distance of more than two kilometres from the place of residence of voters. The commission should consider the provision of official transport to the voters, but in no case, shall it allow the candidates to hire/use private transport on the election day. To ensure strict compliance with section 84 of Representation of the People Act, 1976, establishing of camps near the polling stations should be banned forthwith.The election commission may manage to dispatch extracts from the voters’ list in the name of one or more persons living in a house at least 7 days before the polling day by post, or to save the postage by annexing such extracts with any of the utility bill. The election campaign activities like door-to-door campaign, manifesto, canvassing on state television and radio, and candidate– voter interaction/debates ought to be permitted.The judgment said, instead of involving employees of the provincial governments, the employees of federal government/autonomous organisations/agencies, including the armed forces may be instructed to carry out stipulated functions at the polling stations. The ECP directed to undertake door-to-door checking of voters’ lists and complete the process of updating/revision of the electoral rolls by engaging Army and the Frontier Corps to ensure transparency.To resolve the election related disputes at the earliest, the ECP may consider establishing a panel of lawyers, well conversant with election laws at the State expense, to provide free legal services to marginalised segments of society. Regarding introduction of computerized balloting the court expected that effective steps would be taken at an appropriate time.