ISLAMABAD -  The National Party has challenged certain sections of Elections Act, 2017, in the Supreme Court, dealing with the enlistment of political parties, the fee for candidates contesting provincial and national assembly seats, the number of votes required to avoid forfeiture of security deposits etc.

NP President Wahdat Ayub Malik on Monday filed a petition through Advocate Kamran Raheel Sheikh, challenging sections 202 (2), 61 (1) & (4) and 132 (3) (b) & (c) of the Elections Act, 2017, praying to the court to declare them null and void.

The petitioner made the secretary law and justice and the Election Commission of Pakistan respondents.

According to Section 202 of the Elections Act 2017, which deals with the enlistment of political parties, a political party will have to enclose with its application a copy of its constitution, a certificate and the required information, including a copy of consolidated statement of its accounts and a list of at least 2,000 members with their signatures or thumb impressions along with copies of their national identity cards and proof of deposit of Rs 200,000 in favour of the ECP as the enlistment fee.

The Section 61(1) of the act which has replaced Section 13 of Representation of People’s Act (ROPA), 1976, says the returning officer shall not accept nomination papers unless Rs 30,000 for a seat of the National Assembly and Rs 20,000 for provincial assembly is deposited by the candidate. Under Section 13 of ROPA, the fee for a candidate for a National Assembly seat was Rs 4,000 and Rs 2,000 for that of the provincial assembly.

The petitioner’s counsel said participation in elections is now well beyond the reach of the common man. He added the fundamental right conferred by Article 17 of the Constitution is not only to form and be a member of a political party but also to have the right to participate in the election. He contended the laws related to regulating elections should be to provide full and effective participation of all the citizens in the political process and have an equal voice in the elections .

He said Section 61(4) of the act has increased the number of votes required to prevent forfeiture of the security deposit from one-eighth of the total number of votes cast in the election under Section 43 of ROPA, 1976, to one-fourth of the total cast votes.

He said Section 132 (3) (b & c) of the act has significantly raised the ceiling of election expenses for a candidate during the election campaign. Under Section 49 of ROPA, for a National Assembly candidate, the ceiling was Rs 1 million and Rs 500,000 for that of a provincial assembly, but now the ceiling has been increased to Rs 4 million for a National Assembly seat and Rs 2 million for that of a provincial assembly.

The petitioner said that by enacting sections 202(2), 61(1)&(4) and 132(3) of the Elections Act, 2017, the federation has transgressed its authority and imposed the restrictions which are neither reasonable nor in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan.

He said every citizen has the right to form a political party, whether poor or rich, and contest an election on a footing of equality with any other individual or a political party.

The petitioner said it is very important for ensuring free and fair elections to weed out the influence of money, so election spending must be effectively controlled.