Reinstatement of Original Polling Station as per Electoral Laws


red leaves in close up photography
red leaves in close up photography

In a recent ruling, the Lahore High Court reinstated the polling station at Govt. Boys Primary School, Allah Dad Khelan Wala, setting aside the District Returning Officer's order to change the location to a newly established Veterinary Dispensary on Dabb Road. This judgment underscores the importance of adherence to electoral laws and the necessity for decisions to be free from undue influence and arbitrary reasoning.

Key Areas:

Petitioner's Argument: Riaz Ahmed Khan challenged the District Returning Officer's (DRO) decision, arguing that the change of the polling station was influenced by arbitrary factors and lacked a lawful basis. The petitioner highlighted procedural flaws and emphasized the importance of retaining the original polling station for ensuring a fair election process.

DRO's Decision: The DRO had changed the polling station location based on an application by registered voters Hakim Khan and others. The reasons cited included tribal conflicts in the area of the original polling station and the supposed neutral and accessible nature of the new location. The DRO's decision was influenced by reports of low vote casting ratios and FIRs related to local conflicts.

Court's Analysis: The court, led by Judge Mirza Viqas Rauf, scrutinized the DRO's decision-making process. The court found that the DRO's reliance on FIRs from 2006, 2018, and 2020 as a basis for changing the polling station was flawed. The court noted that such a criterion, if widely applied, would preclude the establishment of polling stations in many areas. Furthermore, the court observed that the vote casting ratio at the original polling station in the preceding election was over 50%, contradicting the DRO's justification of low voter turnout.

Legal Framework: The court emphasized the significance of Section 59 of the Elections Act, 2017, which governs the establishment and alteration of polling stations. The DRO’s actions were deemed mechanical and lacking adherence to the prescribed legal framework. The court also referenced the Supreme Court’s decision in "Workers' Party Pakistan v. Federation of Pakistan" (PLD 2012 SC 681) to underline the ECP’s duty to ensure elections are conducted honestly, justly, and fairly.

Conclusion: Judge Mirza Viqas Rauf concluded that the DRO's decision to change the polling station was unlawful and tainted with procedural irregularities. The High Court set aside the DRO’s order and directed the restoration of the polling station at Govt. Boys Primary School, Allah Dad Khelan Wala.

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