Requirement of Convincing Evidence to Declare Election Void

Requirement of Convincing Evidence to Declare Election Void Case Laws Constitutional Law Election Knowledge - Constitutional Law Litigation & Arbitration Solutions - Constitutional Law Supreme Court Mr. Justice Faisal Arab in his judgment has decided the issue regarding requirement of convincing evidence to declare election void in Civil Appeal No. 1033 of 2014.

1. In the General Elections that were held on 11.5.2013, the appellant and respondent No. 1 were the main contesting candidates from Balochistan Provincial Assembly seat PB-39 Chagai-I. For 66842 registered voters of this constituency, the Election Commission setup 73 polling stations. In all 35197 valid votes were polled. The turnout was 55%. The appellant bagged 12289 votes and the respondent No. 1 bagged 13376 votes. The rest went to other candidates. Leading with a margin of 1087 votes, the respondent No. 1 was declared returned candidate. The appellant was not satisfied with the result. He alleged rigging on the part of respondent No. 1 and filed an election petition before the Election Tribunal, Quetta. The challenge was mainly based on the grounds that (i) the respondent No. 1 employed corrupt and illegal practices in 25 polling stations and did not allow his polling agents to enter their respective polling stations; (ii) the Returning Officer had changed locations of certain polling stations without seeking prior permission from the Election Commission and without notice to the contesting candidates due to which voters of such polling stations could not cast their votes; and (iii) the Returning Officer, in connivance with respondent No. 1 made changes in the polling staff after appointment of the Presiding Officer and other polling staff without intimation to the Election Commission.

2. During the pendency of the election petition, the appellant filed an application before the Election Tribunal seeking verification of thumb impressions on the counterfoils of the votes polled in 25 disputed polling stations through biometric system of NADRA, which was granted. Record reflects that the election material was dispatched to NADRA for verification. As per NADRA’s report out of 25 polling stations, it did not receive election material of two polling stations i.e. Polling Station Nos. 64 and 73. The Election Tribunal after recording evidence of the parties dismissed the election petition. Aggrieved by such decision, the appellant filed
the present appeal.

3. Learned counsel for the appellant, Mr. Kamran Murtaza straightaway took us to paragraph 22 of the impugned judgment. This paragraph contains a table based on the figures taken from NADRA’s report.

4. From NADRA’s report, the above table was taken. It shows that out of 10273 votes that were cast, CNIC numbers on 748 counterfoils were either missing or contained incorrect CNIC numbers; 41 votes were cast by 20 voters; 91 counterfoils did not contain thumb impressions; thumb impressions on 61 counterfoils could not be authenticated; on 5399 counterfoils thumb impressions were of bad quality as inedible ink was not used hence the same could not be deciphered; and, thumb impressions on 3933 counterfoils were authenticated. After adding up the figures contained in serial numbers 2, 3, 4 and 6 of the above table, learned counsel for the appellant submitted that when these 941 bogus votes are deducted from the vote count of respondent No. 1 then keeping in view the small margin of 1087 votes with which the respondent No. 1 was declared successful and the fact that election material of polling station Nos. 64 & 73 was not dispatched to NADRA for verification, it would be sufficient to hold that election result of the constituency had been materially affected as envisaged under Sections 68 & 70 of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1976 and the entire election of PB-39 is to be declared as void. The whole thrust of the argument of appellant’s counsel was based only on the data contained in NADRA’s report.

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