ISLAMABAD: Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan argued on Monday that the apex court is bound to give its opinion in a presidential reference.
The statement came during the hearing of the presidential reference filed by the attorney general’s office through which President Dr Arif Alvi has sought the Supreme Court’s opinion whether Article 226 of the Constitution allows “open ballot” for Senate polls.
A five-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Yahyah Afridi and Justice Ijazul Ahsan is hearing the reference.
In his arguments, the AGP maintained that the president can seek top court’s opinion under Article 186 of the Constitution. Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government have backed the federal government’s bid to hold Senate elections through a show of hands rather than a secret ballot.
The KP government, in its response to the apex court, said that in the past, the secret balloting method had been used against the spirit of elections. KP government demanded that the court allow the Parliament and the government to amend the Election Act 2017 to hold Senate elections by open ballot.
Punjab government said lawmakers use Senate elections to move against the party policy for their personal benefits. It contented that members who oppose party policy can resign and that it was better to resign than sell their votes.
Meanwhile, Sindh government sought time to file a reply. The apex court granted it a weeks time to submit response. The bench also approved PPP Senator Raza Rabbani’s plea to be a party in the case was also approved.
The presidential reference
On January 4, the apex court had issued notices to the federal and provincial advocate generals, the NA speaker and speakers of the provincial assemblies and the Election Commission of Pakistan for a hearing of the presidential reference for holding Senate elections by open ballot.
A five-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Yahyah Afridi and Justice Ijazul Ahsan heard the reference.
The reference read that the president has sought the apex court’s opinion on whether the condition of holding a secret ballot referred to in Article 226 of the Constitution is applicable only for the elections held under the Constitution such as the election to the office of president, speakers and deputy speakers of the Parliament and provincial assemblies and “not to other elections such as the election for the members of Senate” held under the Elections Act 2017 enacted to pursuant to Article 222 read with Entry 41 (1) of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution “which may be held by way of secret or open ballot” as provided for in the Act.
According to the government, the nature of the elections and the way it is conducted has not been clearly mentioned in the Constitution.
The government said election for the Senate is conducted in accordance with the Election Act of 2017 and asked if it is possible to introduce the idea of open-balloting in the upper house of the Parliament.