ISLAMABAD - Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial Tuesday noted that delimitations of constituencies is a matter of public interest and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) needs to carry out this process transparently.
A two-member bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi conducted hearing of a petition pertaining to errors and illegalities in the delimitation for PS-07, PS-08 and PS-09 of Sindh’s Shikarpur district.
The Chief Justice stressed upon the ECP to conduct delimitations transparently. “This is a matter of public interest,” he said. He highlighted; “There is a lot of sensitivity on delimitations in Sindh,” adding that grievances regarding incorrect delimitations often came from the province.
He said that if the Tapedar (revenue official) modifies the dotted circles during the delimitation [process], it would affect votes of the candidates contesting from the constituencies, he said. After the approval of 7th Population and Housing Census on August 5, 2023 by the Council of Common Interests, the ECP is likely to make a decision within the coming days regarding the delimitation timeframe of constituencies. Delimitation of constituencies, following the approval of the digital population census, is constitutionally mandated for the next general elections. Experts estimate that the process will take approximately three months.
During the proceeding, the Chief Justice inquired from the Director General (Law) of the Commission when the general elections would be held. The DG (Law) did not respond, and remained silent. Justice Bandial observed; “This means a date for the general elections has not been decided yet.” He then directed the ECP to resolve all issues prior to the polls.
The court order said; “The ECP has defended its impugned action on the basis of Rule 10(4) of the Election Rules, 2017. By that provision, the limits of a ‘Tapedar Circle’ should not be breached in the delimitation process.” It added, “In the present case, the contention of the petitioners was that the delimitation in 2018 election without violating ‘Tapedar Circle’ is closer to the limits now being demanded by the petitioner.”
The court said, “In the present case, the plea being taken by the petitioners is that the difference in the number of voters in each of the three provincial constituencies in District Shikarpur is more pronounced and exceeds the variation limits set by Section 20(3) of the Election Act, 2017. On a challenge made by the petitioners on above grounds, the ECP passed an order under Section 22(1) of the Act holding that the information furnished by the petition was time barred, whereas there is no limitation prescribed for bringing information to the notice of the ECP under the said provision. Therefore, the ground taken in the order is invalid.” It also said, “The ECP was given an opportunity to consider whether it would be willing to answer the petitioner’s objection through a fresh order or would like to contest the matter before the Court.” Now, the case will be heard after the Court’s summer vacations.