LAHORE  -   The Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday filed its written reply in a writ petition seeking inclusion of “none of the above” or NOTA option in the ballot papers, and opposed the demand.

“None of the above” or NOTA for short, also known as “against all” or a “scratch” vote, is a ballot option in some jurisdictions or organisations. The option was designed to permit the voters to indicate disapproval of the candidates included in a ballot paper.

The ECP representatives appeared before the court of Sajid Mehmood Sethi and submitted the reply contending that NOTA could not be included in the ballot papers because there is no such provision of law in the Election Act 2017 as states to include NOTA option.

Representing the ECP, Hafiz Adeel Advocate also submitted that the electoral system of India, Brazil and France are different from Pakistan electoral system. He were of the view that if someone did not want to vote, he or she must stay at home.

On the other side, petitioner’s counsel Sheraz Zaka Advocate argued that the honourable Supreme Court directed in 2012 to include NOTA option in the ballot papers so that maximum people could participate in elections. He said that NOTA option would bring rule. He submitted that right to vote is a fundamental right hence citizens who do not want to vote for any candidate should be given the option of NOTA in the ballot papers.

After hearing the arguments Justice Sajid Sethi sent the file to the office of Chief Justice Anwaarul Haq and directed the office to connect all the interconnected petitions and fix the same before Justice Shahid Karim to hear the matter for final arguments on 19th of December.

Representing the government of Punjab, Assistant Attorney General Hina Fafeezullah also appeared before the court but not argued.

The ECP told the court in the reply that the petitioner was not competent person to make such like declaration. It also objected that the petitioner did not place on file any documented proof that he is a citizen of Pakistan and is a practicing lawyer, and pleaded petition be dismissed.

The choice for voter to elect any candidate is provided in the ballot paper while the law does not provide for NOTA option. It said that the demand “cannot be acceded and the same is not legal one. If the petitioner does not want to cast his vote in favour of any candidate he may refrain at his own option to cast his vote. The voter can easily refrain from voting if he does not like any one of candidates who are contesting the election.”

SHAHZAD AHMAD