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Final result of census to be announced after CCI approval, SHC told

The final result of the 2017 census has been forwarded to the Council of Common Interest (CCI) and will be announced after approval from the council, the joint census commissioner told Sindh High Court on Wednesday.

During a hearing of a Muttahida Qaumi Movement petition against the constitution of delimitation committees and the process of delimitation for local bodies elections in the province by the provincial election commission, a division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar asked the joint census commissioner about the publication of the final census result.

Joint census commissioner Khawaja Mazhar Jamali submitted that the final result had already been forwarded to the CCI and would be announced after approval in its meeting. The federal law officer however sought time to seek proper instructions for such a statement.

The counsel for the Election Commission of Pakistan filed comments on the petition, submitting that the delimitation of constituencies of local governments is part of the process of organising and holding the local government elections honestly, justly and fairly, which is the constitutional mandate of the ECP.

He submitted that it is the prerogative of the ECP to get assistance of a revenue or some other executive officer to carry out the delimitation of the local government constituencies. However, he pointed out, the delimitation committees in question had not been notified as yet by the ECP; therefore, the petitioner’s grievances in this regard are premature.

The court directed the federal and provincial law officers, the local bodies department and other respondents to file their comments by September 9.

MQM senior deputy convenor Amir Khan, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar and others submitted in the petition that the provincial election commissioner had formed election committees for the delimitation of local bodies’ constituencies and carried out the delimitation process in violation of the election commission’s laws.

They argued that the election commission was required to carry out delimitations after every census officially published by the competent authority and it was pertinent to mention that final result of the 2017 census was not officially published. They submitted that the delimitation of the constituencies in absence of any official publication could not be possible under the election and delimitation laws.

They submitted that result of the 2017 census had not been finally published and its demonstrated that it was still disputed and even sub judice before the court of the law and other relevant forums. They said that the election authorities’ act to proceed with the delimitation process in the absence of any statutory sanction amounted to hoodwinking the law and circumventing the mandatory provisions.

They submitted that the constitution of delimitation committees and the process of delimitation of local bodies’ constituencies were violative of the election and delimitation laws as well as of the directions of the superior courts in delimitation cases.

The petitioners also questioned the constitution of committees in the absence of officials of the statistics bureau or the census bureau. They added that delimitation committees and their exercise if any carried out were of no legal effect for the reasons that law did not permit delimitations to take place on the basis of the provisional result.

They submitted that the delimitation exercise during the pandemic of COVID-19 could not be possible, and instead of the appointment of administrators, all local governments’ tenure be extended for six months.

The court was requested to declare the constitution of the committees for the delimitation of local bodies’ constituencies illegal and restrain them from carrying out the delimitation process in the province till a decision on the petition.

The petitioners’ counsel submitted that the ECP had to delimit the constituencies after every census officially published, whereas in the same section powers had been given to the commission to delimit territorial constituencies for elections to the National Assembly, each provincial assembly and to the local governments in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, Election Act, rules and the local government laws.

He submitted that the exercise of delimitation was totally unjustified and also in violation of the law. The provincial election commissioner had sent a notification to all district election commissioners for the delimitation of union councils, union committees and wards for conducting the forthcoming local government elections in the province whose term was due to expire by August 2020.

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