Only six cases were decided by the election tribunals in March 2015 – bringing the total number of decided cases to 373 out of 4111 (347 out of 385 by the tribunals and 26 by the ECP itself). On the other hand, 38 petitions are still awaiting decisions.
Of the 373 cases, 154 (128 by the tribunals and 26 by the ECP itself) have been dismissed on grounds of technical deficiencies, implying that the merits of the petitions were not adjudicated on. Forty-five petitions have been accepted; 25 dismissed due to non-prosecution; 30 dismissed as withdrawn and 117 dismissed after complete trial. The reasons for dismissal of two petitions are not known to FAFEN due to non-availability of their copies of orders.
With regards to the 45 petitions accepted, 10 were filed by independent candidates and nine each by PPPP and PML-N. In addition, two petitions filed by PTI have been accepted so far. On the other hand, 17 petitions are against the returned candidates of PML-N, 12 cite independent candidates as respondents, followed by eight petitions against PPPP and three against PTI.
Given the backlog, the ECP seems to have failed to ensure compliance with the mandatory legal provision of disposing of election petitions within 120 days of receipt by the tribunals.
Section 67(1A) of the Representation of People Act 1976 states, “where a petition is not decided within four months, further adjournment sought by any party shall be given only on payment of special cost of Rs10,000 per adjournment and adjournment shall not be given for more than three days.”
Even though all the pending cases have crossed the limit of 120 days, the compliance with the mandatory provision of imposing the fine has been very rare. It is important to mention that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has already emphasized that the tribunals should follow the above-mentioned provision strictly.
Moreover, there is no provision in the law that deals with writ petitions against interim orders of election tribunals, or the timeframe for their disposal, if filed. As a result, stay orders passed by the high courts against writ petitions linger on for several months; delaying the disposal of petitions within the legally-stipulated deadline. According to FAFEN’s observation, at least two petitions filed by PML have made no material progress so far. These petitions remained pending with the ECP for the longest time, and following their delayed transfer to the Lahore tribunal, their proceedings were stayed by the Lahore High Court.
The ECP constituted 14 tribunals across the country to redress election-related complaints following the 2013 General Elections. The three tribunals in Balochistan, along with the tribunal in Dera Ismail Khan, have ceased functioning after deciding all their cases. Similarly, the tribunals in Sukkur and Karachi tribunals have also ceased operations after their pending cases were transferred to the Hyderabad tribunal.
The election results were officially notified on May 22, 2013 following which the candidates had until July 6, 2013 to submit their petitions. The ECP received a total of 409 petitions, out of which 25 were dismissed by the commission itself during scrutiny. As many as 384 petitions were referred to the tribunals – one petition was sent back by the Rawalpindi tribunal and dismissed by ECP itself due to non-prosecution, bringing the number of cases dismissed by the ECP to 26. Another petition was filed directly with the tribunal in Lahore, bypassing the legal mechanism which resulted in its dismissal at the initial stage. Furthermore, another petition was filed with the ECP in June 2014 and dismissed by the Lahore tribunal in the same month, bringing the total number of petitions to 411.
Most of the petitions were moved by contesting candidates, while three petitions were filed by voters. Independent candidates filed a total of 99 petitions, followed by PML-N members who filed 66 petitions – 12 against PTI and 14 against PPPP. Of the 12 petitions against PTI, only one has been accepted so far. Nine petitions against PTI have been dismissed, while two are still awaiting decisions. Similarly, three petitions against PPPP have been accepted; nine have been dismissed while two petitions are yet to be decided.
PTI filed a total of 58 petitions – 43 against winning candidates of the ruling PML-N and only one against PPPP. Of the 43 petitions against PML-N, 20 were filed to resolve disputes over National Assembly seats while the rest were related to the provincial assemblies. So far, two petitions filed by PTI against PML-N have been accepted. The only petition against PPPP to resolve a dispute over a National Assembly seat in Sindh was dismissed by the Hyderabad tribunal.
In addition, PPPP members filed 50 petitions – 19 against PML-N and only one against PTI. The only petition against PTI was dismissed by the Abbottabad tribunal. Of the 19 petitions against PML-N, three have been accepted; 14 have been dismissed while another two are pending with the respective tribunals.
The petitions were moved on single or multiple grounds and seek single or multiple reliefs. A majority of the petitions challenged the nomination or qualification of returned candidates with the additional ground of use of corrupt practices to sway the elections. There were 38 petitions challenging the nomination process and another 92 challenging the qualification of returned candidates. More than half (212 or 55%) of the petitions, among other grounds, made allegations of corrupt practices employed by returned candidates, while almost three-fourth (280 or 73%) of the petitions accused other personnel, including election officials, of malpractice.
Petitioners in 248 cases sought declaration to the effect that the election of the winning candidate be declared void and the petitioner be declared returned candidate instead. Among other reliefs, 122 petitions sought disqualification of the returned candidates and re-polling in the constituency. Another 91 petitions sought recounting of ballots for the entire or parts of the constituencies, 42 demanded re-examination of excluded ballots while 57 sought re-polling at certain polling stations besides 71 petitions seeking other reliefs.
1 FAFEN had earlier reported that a total of 410 petitions were filed following the 2013 General Elections. More recently, another petition was filed with the ECP and dismissed by the Lahore tribunal, bringing the total number of filed petitions to 411. The details of the petition are given in the next section of this report.
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