The Supreme Court on Monday announced its opinion on the presidential reference regarding Senate elections, saying that polls for the upper house of parliament will be held through secret ballot, according to Article 226 of the Constitution.
The 4-1 majority opinion was announced by a five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and including Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi.
Justice Afridi disagreed with the majority opinion.
The court had reserved its opinion on Saturday.
The Supreme Court said that Senate elections are held in accordance with the law and the Constitution.
“It is the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to protect the election from corruption,” it added.
The parliament can pass constitutional amendments, the top court said. It emphasised that all institutions were bound to follow the ECP.
The top court, however, also said that the secrecy of the ballot papers was “not absolute”.
It also said that the ECP could “use the latest technology to ensure the holding of transparent elections” under powers granted to it according to Article 218 of the Constitution (related to the formation of election commission).
Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan had on Dec 23, 2020, moved the 11-page reference under Article 186 of the Constitution relating to the advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
The president had sought the answer to the question of whether or not the condition of secret ballot under Article 226 of the Constitution applied to the Senate elections. The hearing started on January 4.
Ahead of the announcement, the registrar office had issued notices to the attorney general, chief election commissioner, Senate chairman and speakers of the national and provincial assemblies, advocates general for the four provinces, members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and others.
More to follow.