Final ultimatum: Top court gives govt 10 days to appoint CEC

Friday, November 14th, 2014 5:20:18 by



ISLAMABAD: 

The Supreme Court on Thursday set a 10-day deadline for the government to appoint a permanent head of the country’s top poll supervisory body.

Directing the attorney general (AG) to ensure that the chief election commissioner (CEC) is appointed by November 24, the three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, warned the government that it would recall Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, who has been serving as the acting election commissioner, leaving the post vacant if it fails to make the appointment within the given time.

During the hearing, AG Salman Aslam Butt told the court that three names were finalised following consultations between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah but the nominees refused to accept the position.

Seeking more time for the CEC’s appointment, which hit a temporary snag earlier this week when former chief justice Tasadduq Jilani turned the nomination down, Butt said that the prime minister and the leader of opposition left the country shortly after the names were finalised. He assured the court that the consultation process would resume upon their return.

Upon this, the chief justice remarked that the process would have been completed by now if it had been initiated earlier.

Reiterating the court’s deadline, Justice Dost Muhammad Khan asked the attorney general to ensure that the appointment is made soon after the premier and opposition leader return to the country.  Subsequently, the AG assured the court that the CEC’s appointment would be finalized within the given time.

Wrapping up the proceedings, the court extended the deadline, however warned the attorney general of consequences if the poll body chief was not appointed by November 24.

This is the second time that the apex court has extended its deadline for appointing a permanent CEC. Earlier, on October 14, it had given the government a two-week deadline to make the appointment.

On October 28, the bench was approached by leader of the opposition to delay the deadline by three months. However, the court rejected his plea and asked the government to complete the process by November 14.

Justice Jamali is the third consecutive interim chief election commissioner in less than one year. Previously, Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk and outgoing CJ Tassaduq Hussain Jillani have served as the acting CEC.

Justice (retd) Fakharuddin G Ebrahim, who was appointed as the 13th CEC, had resigned on July 30, 2013 – a day after the presidential polls were held.

Biometric system in K-P

The bench, while hearing arguments on local government elections, recommended that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government introduce biometric system in one district as a pilot project in the upcoming local government elections.

The apex court observed that if the pilot is successful, only then it should be expanded to the entire province. The CJ added that during his time as the CEC, they had experimented with the biometric system first in Peshawar and then in Islamabad in which a number of shortcomings were outlined, including incomplete NADRA records preventing verification of thumb impressions.

The CJ further noted it will cost around Rs1 billion to introduce the biometric system across K-P, and will take a lot more time than expected.

The court though directed the Additional Advocate General in K-P Zahid Quraishi to get fresh instructions from the relevant quarters regarding the induction of biometric system in the upcoming local body polls.

However, the court expressed its desire that local government polls should be held in the province till spring 2015.

ECP report on LG polls in K-P

Submitting its report before the apex court on Thursday, the poll body contended if the biometric system is to be deployed across K-P, the forthcoming local body elections may have to be deferred till September 2015.

The Election Commission added that the use of biometric devices should not become a reason to delay the polls – a mandatory constitutional obligation.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2014.



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