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Chairman Senate Election: Can parliament’s proceedings be challenged in Court?

Following the defeat of PDM’s joint candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani against the ruling coalition’s Sadiq Sanjrani during the election of Senate chairman, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday said that they have decided to challenge the result in the high court. Can the parliament’s proceedings be challenged in court?

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The Election of Chairman Senate has raised some legal questions as the Pakistan Democratic Movements, an alliance of 11 opposition parties, decided not to accept the results. On Friday, 98 senators from the upper house exercised their right to vote today. Sanjrani, the PTI-backed candidate, received 48 votes while his opponent Gilani could only manage 42. Seven votes were rejected.

Following the defeat of PDM’s joint candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani against the ruling coalition’s Sadiq Sanjrani during the election of Senate chairman, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday said that they have decided to challenge the result in the high court after consultation with other leaders of the alliance including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz.

“All seven rejected votes were valid. If you count these then Yousuf Raza Gilani is the Senate chairman. We will challenge the undemocratic and illegal decision in the court,” he said while addressing a press conference in Islamabad flanked by Gilani and other PPP leaders.

Read more: Senate Chairman Election: Why PML-N’s Musadik Malik voted against PDM’s candidate?

The votes were rejected by the presiding officer, Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah, as the ballot papers were stamped on the candidate’s name instead of the box next to it. “These seven ballot papers are rejected,” announced Shah. He added that one vote was rendered invalid as it was cast in favour of both the candidates. The opposition challenged the result as at least six of the rejected votes were cast in favour of Gilani.

Bilawal hoped that the court would give its verdict in the alliance’s favour as there were previous rulings of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and other courts of law where it was declared that if the intention of the voter is clear then the vote cannot be rejected.

Can parliament’s proceedings be challenged in Court?

Senator Mohsin Aziz of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), who was polling agent of Sadiq Sanjrani in the election of Senate chairman, said in a TV programme that according to Rules of Procedure & Conduct of Business in Senate 2012, the proceedings of the Senate and National Assembly could not be challenged in the court of law.

He rejected the opposition’s contention that seven votes cast in favour of PDM candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani were illegally rejected and said the opposition members had intentionally wasted their votes. “They wasted their votes either under pressure or any commitment as they were not ready to vote for PDM,” he claimed, adding that these seven voters of the PDM came up openly in favour of the government’s candidate for the slot of deputy chairman.

Read more: Government Wins Chairman and Deputy Chairman Positions in Senate

Former Secretary Election Commissioner Kanwar Dilshad appeared on GEO News and argued that the proceedings in this specific case can be challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. “I think the votes should have not been rejected,” he opined.

According to the latest reports, a plea will be filed with the Islamabad High Court (IHC) today by Farooq H Naek soon after acquiring the documents regarding votes rejection during the Senate chairman slot election. The PDM has stated in its plea that a stamp on the name of the candidate, cannot lead to rejection of the vote. Seven votes cast in Gilani’s favor were deliberately rejected by the Presiding Officer Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah. Gilani will be declared the winner if the rejected votes were counted, the plea say.

Interestingly, the IHC on Wednesday dismissed a petition filed by PTI’s Ali Awan challenging the Senate victory of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. “You are a good and respectable public representative, why have you brought such a petition,” IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, adding that “this writ petition is not admissible on this occasion.” “It is not appropriate to bring political issues to the court unnecessarily,” the judge said.

Read more: Chairman Senate Election: Is establishment supporting PTI?

There is an argument that judicialization of parliamentary affairs likely to leads towards centralization of power which ultimately challenges the supremacy of the parliament. Hence, some commentators believe, the court is unlikely to issue any verdict in this case even if it is approached. Some insiders are also of the view that PPP’s several leaders are not in favor of going to the court for this matter. “It would be better to approach ECP, but not the court for a review of the electoral process,” some PPP leaders reportedly told Bilawal.