Most probably, the Senate elections will be held soon. However, it has already initiated a debate in the media and political circles about the exact date for holding elections. The term of the Senate is six years; however, half of the Senators retire every three years after completing their tenure of six years.

According to reports, “the Senate elections are due to be held in weeks from now as half of the total strength of Senators will retire on March 12. Under the law, election to vacant seats can be held even several weeks before the retiring date of March 12 of half of the Senate members. The new Senators will be elected by the members of the present Assemblies.” The time for holding the Senate elections, is regulated by Article 224(3) and 224(5) of the Constitution of Pakistan. In this context, the provisions of the law are reproduced as under:

Article 224(3): “An election to fill the seats in the Senate, which are to become vacant on the expiration of the term of the members of the Senate, shall be held not earlier than 30 days immediately preceding the day on which the vacancies are due to occur.”

Article 224(5): “When a seat in the Senate has become vacant, an election to fill the seat shall be held within 30 days from the occurrence of the vacancy.”

Therefore, since the vacancy to the Senate seats will occur on March 12, 2012, the election can be held any time between February 12 and April 11, 2012. In addition, they will be held under Senate (Election) Act, 1975. More so, the Election Commissioner of Pakistan will announce the election date by issuing a notification in the official gazette. The relevant law reads as under (Section 10 Senate (Election) Act, 1975):

10. Notification for election:

(1) “For the purpose of an election, the Commissioner shall by notification in the official gazette, call upon the members of the Provincial Assembly of the province to elect such number of members to the Senate from that province as is specified in such notification.

(2) The Commissioner shall in the same notification fix a day:

(a) for the nomination of candidates;

(b) for the scrutiny of nomination papers;

(c) on or before which candidature may be withdrawn; and

(d) for the taking of the poll and the place at which the poll shall be taken.”

In other words, the holding of elections is not merely restricted to the holding of polls; it includes the issuing of notification for the election by the Election Commission; taking nomination of the candidates; security of papers; and withdrawn of the candidate and actual polling for the election.

If the elections are held at the earliest date, i.e. February 12, 2012, and according to the procedure provided in the Senate (Election) Act, 1975, the notification for the polls should be issued by February 12 and nomination date of candidates fixed by February 13.

Nevertheless, a day or two is given for the scrutiny of the nomination papers and withdrawal of the candidature. Then the polling for the Senate seats can actually take place not before February 16-17, 2012.

    The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court.