ISLAMABAD - Supreme Court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Tuesday observed that the corrupt practice of vote’s buying has made inroads into democratic order.

“A person who manipulates the electoral process by buying votes cannot be categorised as a legitimate representative and does not serve the people. The commodification of high positions and offices through voter manipulation and electoral tampering must be stopped,” Justice Isa observed.

“It is critical that those who represent the people, whether at local government or in the Senate, must be elected honestly, justly, and fairly through a process free from corrupt practices,” he further observed.

It is further observed that there is a growing perception that elections to certain positions/offices, like those of mayor, deputy mayor, chairman, vice chairman, are not held honestly, justly, or fairly and the corrupt practice of vote’s buying has made inroads into the democratic order.

“There’s a similar perception in respect of other elections where there aren’t many voters. For instance, the election of senators, who are elected by the members of provincial assemblies and the election of Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Senate, who are elected by the senators,” he observed.

Justice Isa made these observations in his 17-page judgment regarding local government election wherein the election of Sumaira Malik to the seat of Chairman District Council in Khushab was challenged.

Declaring the election of Chairman District Council null and void, the judgment also ruled for re-elections.

However, Justice Isa in detailed judgment observed that the Election Commission is constitutionally mandated to ensure the integrity of elections.

“However, when the integrity of the vote is compromised, fresh elections must be held. Particularly when less number of voters make a re-poll logistically feasible and easily implementable.”

“Popular candidates who are not involved in vote buying and malpractice should have no apprehension in a re-election. Therefore, in elections where serious concerns over the integrity of the process have emerged, fresh elections are in the best interest of the people because they ensure maximum transparency, fairness and equal opportunity. Fresh elections would also ensure the integrity of the democratic process.”

He further observed that the foundation of a representative democracy rests on a credible electoral process.

“A democratic facade is not a substitute for democracy,” Justice Isa observed adding that former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Zia-ul-Haq held a referendum on December 19, 1984 and obtained 98.5 percent of an affirmative vote, and in General Pervez Musharraf’s referendum held on April 30, 2002 he obtained a 97.97 percent affirmation.

“However, many election observers questioned these results as well as the turnout, which was shown to be greater than the previous seven general elections,” he added.

Elections must not only be held but be seen to be held honestly, justly, fairly and corruption free. One without the other lacks credibility and de-legitimises the objective, he observed.