By: Hasnaat Malik
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday set aside the order of Peshawar High Court (PHC) against barring females from casting votes in NA-5 Nowshera and NA-27 Lakki Marwat.
A three-judge SC bench, headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, had taken up the petition moved by PTI’s Dr Imran Khattak against the use of suo motu by the high court against restraining female voters from casting their votes in the respective constituencies during the August 22 by-elections.
On August 25, the PHC had ordered re-polling in the polling stations for women where no votes or negligible number of votes were cast during the by-elections in the two National Assembly constituencies.
A two-judge PHC bench, comprising Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Malik Manzoor, ruled that barring women from casting vote was a detestable act which could not be approved by the court.
“It is not acceptable that a vast majority of voters are deprived of their fundamental right of electing people of their choice,” it said.
According to the SC’s September 17 order, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will be free to notify the names of those candidates who won the elections from the respective constituencies during the by-elections. Both the seats were bagged by candidates fielded by the PTI.
Dr Imran Khattak had won the seat from NA-5 Nowshera and Col (r) Amirullah Marwat from NA-27.
The SC decided the matter after converting the petition into an appeal and directed those aggrieved with the decision of the high court to approach ECP for the redressal of the grievances, if any.
Advocate Athar Minallah, representing the petitioner, argued that the high court had taken suo motu notice over a complaint that women were not allowed to take part in the by-elections in NA-5 when under articles 184(3) and 199 of the constitution, the high court had no jurisdiction to take suo motu on the issue.
Minallah maintained that if an aggrieved person would have filed a petition in this regard, the high court could have taken the notice on the issue.
He also referred to NA-32 Upper Dir and questioned why PHC failed to take notice in Upper Dir where only one woman caste her vote out of total 138,910 registered female voters. The same was the case in PK-70 Bannu, he regretted.