Only five cases were decided by the election tribunals constituted by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in April 2015 – bringing the total number of decided cases to 378 out of 411, says Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) on Wednesday.
Of the 378 cases, 154 have been dismissed on grounds of technical deficiencies, implying that the merits of the petitions were not adjudicated on.
Forty-six petitions have been accepted, 25 dismissed due to non-prosecution, 31 dismissed as withdrawn and 120 dismissed after complete trial.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.
One of the cases dismissed in April was that of PP-213 (Khanewal-II), where an independent candidate’s victory was challenged by the runner-up candidate belonging to PML-N. However, the tribunal observed that the petitioner had tampered the Form XIVs of 29 polling stations in the constituency to decrease the number of votes secured by the returned candidate.
The tribunal held that the tampering had been done in connivance with the record keeper and officials of the copying agency of Kabirwala Additional District and Session Judge and noted that the case was “unique” in its nature. It also imposed a fine of Rs500,000 to the petitioner.
The current pace of the tribunals’ proceedings has delayed the decisions of 33 petitions beyond the legally-stipulated deadline of disposing of the petitions within 120 days of receipt.
The ECP constituted 14 tribunals across the country to redress election complaints following the 2013 General Elections. The election results were officially notified on May 22, 2013, following which the candidates had until July 6 to submit their petitions.
The ECP received a total of 411 petitions, out of which 26 were dismissed by the commission itself while the remaining 385 were referred to the tribunals. The tribunals have so far decided 352 petitions, while 33 cases are still awaiting decisions.
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 including 12 against PTI and 14 against PPPP.
PTI filed a total of 58 petitions including 43 against winning candidates of the ruling PML-N and only one against PPPP. In addition, PPPP members filed 50 petitions which included 19 against PML-N and only one against PTI.
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.
The 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. As many as 122 petitions sought disqualification of the returned candidates and re-polling in the entire constituency.
Another 91 petitions sought recounting of ballots for the entire or parts of the constituency, while 42 demanded re-examination of excluded ballots. Fifty-seven petitions sought re-polling at certain polling stations, while 71 petitions sought other reliefs from the tribunals.