Legal Memo on Pakistan’s Elections Act 2017 and Election Petitions

The Pakistan Elections Act 2017 is an important piece of legislation that governs the conduct of elections in Pakistan. It was passed by the Parliament of Pakistan in 2017. The Act repealed several previous electoral laws, including the Representation of the People Act, 1976, and the Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002. The main purpose of the Act is to ensure the transparency, fairness, and credibility of the electoral process in the country. The Act was enacted to streamline the electoral process in Pakistan and to address some of the shortcomings in the previous electoral framework. The Pakistan Elections Act 2017 introduced several new provisions and amendments, including the use of biometric verification for voter identification, the appointment of a caretaker government to oversee the electoral process, and the creation of an Election Commission to ensure the impartiality of the electoral process.

The Act provides for the establishment of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which is responsible for conducting and supervising the elections. It also sets out the procedures for the nomination of candidates, the conduct of campaigns, the polling process, and the counting of votes. The Act also provides for the establishment of an Election Tribunal, which is responsible for resolving disputes related to the election process.

One of the key features of the Pakistan Elections Act 2017 is the provision for election petitions. Election petitions are legal challenges filed by any aggrieved candidate or voter who believes that the election has been conducted unfairly, illegally, or in violation of the electoral laws. They are an important tool for ensuring the integrity of the electoral process. Election petitions can be filed by any candidate who contested the election, as well as any voter who was registered to vote in the constituency in question. The purpose of election petitions is to address any irregularities or illegal practices that may have affected the outcome of an election. Election petitions can be filed with the Election Commission within 45 days of the publication of the election results. The petition must be filed in the relevant Election Tribunal, which will then examine the evidence and hear the arguments of both parties. The Election Commission then conducts an inquiry into the petition, and if it finds that there is sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation, it may order a recount of the votes or even a new election in the constituency in question. The Tribunal has the power to declare the election null and void, order a re-election, or declare the petitioner as the winner of the election. Election petitions are an important mechanism for ensuring that the will of the people is reflected in the outcome of an election, and they are a vital tool for maintaining the integrity of the electoral process in Pakistan.

In summary, the Pakistan Elections Act 2017 is a comprehensive electoral legislation that governs the conduct of elections in Pakistan. The law seeks to ensure the transparency, fairness, and credibility of the electoral process in the country. The Act introduced several new provisions and amendments to streamline the electoral process and addresses shortcomings in the previous electoral framework. Election petitions are an important feature of the Act, as they provide a mechanism for challenging the results of an election and ensuring the integrity of the electoral process and that the will of the people is respected.

Election Petitions

An election petition is a legal remedy available to any participating individual or voter of the constituency that contests the results of an election in Pakistan. The process of filing an election petition is governed by the Elections Act, 2017, which sets out the rules and procedures that must be followed.

The first step in filing an election petition is to gather the necessary evidence to support the claim that the election was not conducted fairly or that there were irregularities in the process. This evidence could include witness statements, video footage, and any other documents that can support the petitioner’s case. Once the evidence has been gathered, the petitioner must prepare a petition in the prescribed format and file it with the relevant Election Tribunal. The petition must be filed within 45 days of the announcement of the election result in the official gazette.

Grounds for filing a petition:

An election petition can be filed on the following grounds:

✓ Corrupt or illegal practices committed by the winning candidate or his/her agents.
✓ Irregularities in the conduct of the election which have materially affected the result.
✓ Non-compliance with the provisions of the Election Act 2017, which have materially affected the result.

Procedure for hearing a petition:

The Election Tribunal, a specialized court with exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate election petitions, expedites the hearing and disposal of petitions by following a summary trial procedure. Upon filing a written petition with the requisite fee of Pkr 2000, the Tribunal reviews the petition and may request additional evidence or information from the petitioner. Further, the Tribunal has the power to summon witnesses, call for documents, and take any other necessary steps to render a just decision. Additionally, the respondents, typically the winning candidate and the Election Commission of Pakistan, receive notices and have a mere ten days to file a reply.

Subsequently, the Tribunal scrutinizes the petition and issues a written decision, either affirming the election result or deeming it null and void. In the latter scenario, the Tribunal may order a reelection or take any other remedial steps necessary to rectify the irregularities. Furthermore, the Tribunal may reject a petition that is frivolous or lacks substance. Should an election be set aside, the Tribunal retains the authority to order a re-election in the constituency.

Appeal against the decision of the Tribunal:

Any party aggrieved by the decision of the Election Tribunal can file an appeal to the High Court within 30 days of the decision. The High Court has the power to affirm, reverse, or modify the decision of the Tribunal. The decision of the High Court is final and binding on all parties, subject to any further appeal to the Supreme Court on questions of law.

Conclusion:

In summation, to lodge an election petition in Pakistan after the 2017 Act, an individual must exhibit the utmost prudence in collecting evidence, meticulously preparing a comprehensive petition, and filing it with the Election Tribunal expeditiously within a 45-day window, commencing from the announcement of the election results. The Tribunal shall then embark upon a judicious examination of the petition, undertake a meticulous hearing of the case, and render a written decision, either ratifying or annulling the election result.

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