Hurdles to Polls: SC Urged To Suspend CCI's Decision To Ratify Digital Census

Supreme Court Bar Association files petition in top court urging it to direct ECP to set the election schedule within the stipulated 90 days

Hurdles to Polls: SC Urged To Suspend CCI's Decision To Ratify Digital Census

Less than a week after it was approved, deeply impacting the schedule of elections, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBAP) Wednesday approached the Supreme Court against the digital census 2023. 

In its petition submitted to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the SCBAP requested the apex court suspend the decision of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) earlier in August to approve the Digital Census 2023. The approval by the CCI bound the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold the upcoming elections per the new census, hence undertaking a fresh delimitation exercise which threatens to derail the constitutional timeline for polls.

The SCBAP, in its petition, has requested the top court to issue the directions to ECP to announce a date for the next general elections, which lies within the three-month period from the date of dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies as stipulated in the Constitution. 

Through the petition, the SCBAP further requested the top court to declare that the CCI was not properly constituted when taking the decision on the census. The association contended that two of the provinces were represented by caretaker chief ministers in the meeting, including Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The caretakers, they argued, had no statutory or constitutional right to participate in the meeting as they, along with their cabinets, are continuing illegally in office. 

"The delayed approval of the digital census 2023, less than a week prior to the dissolution of the national and two provincial assemblies, has created a Constitutional dilemma which is required to be resolved by this Honorable Court," the petition prayed.

It added that the constitutional crisis and deadlock were created solely because of the CCI's decision. 

"It appears to be a mala fide exercise to delay the  elections, which is both mala fide in law and mala fide in fact." 

"If it were not for the Impugned Decision, the elections would be conducted on the basis of the 2017 census, and there would be no controversy for a fresh delimitation exercise." 

"It is also pertinent to note that there is nothing in the law or the Constitution which mandates a fresh census before every election," the petition further argued.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain