EC working on response to court

- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu
Election Commission officials say they will take a formal decision on the issue once they receive the apex court’s order

Oct 27, 2017-The Election Commission is preparing its response to the Supreme Court on its decision to use a single ballot paper for both federal and provincial elections in the first-past-the-post category, arguing that the arrangement was made due to “time constraints” in printing separate ballot papers.

On Wednesday, the apex court ordered the election body to ensure separate ballot papers for the two elections and present a report on the progress made to that effect since its earlier ruling on October 18.

In response to a contempt of court writ filed on Tuesday by Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal leader Sarbendra Nath Shukla, the court asked Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav to furnish clarification within three days as to why he should not be charged with contempt of court for “defying” the court’s earlier order.

The court’s fresh ruling has created uncertainty whether the elections would be held on the scheduled dates of November 26 and December 7. The order comes at a time when the EC has largely completed printing ballot papers for the proportional elections and is preparing to print ballots shortly for the FPTP system.

EC officials said they would take a formal decision on the issue once they receive the court’s order. “But we will respond to the SC based on our earlier decision as the situation has not changed for holding the elections on schedule,” said Election Commissioner Sudhir Shah.

A full meeting of the EC on October 24 decided to print single ballot papers for the two elections citing inadequate time for separate ballots.

EC officials said they also notified the SC that two ballot papers for two elections could be printed on a single sheet but not separately. Tuesday’s order of the court was not final, said Shah, adding that they would go ahead with their plants on printing the ballots for direct polls.

However, election officials maintain that the fate of the scheduled polls would depend on the court’s final verdict. Responding to a writ petition, also filed by Shukla demanding separate FPTP ballot papers for the federal and provincial polls, a division bench of Justices Dipak Raj Joshi and Purushottam Bhandari on October 18 ruled that “there is no need to issue an interim order”. But the court stated simultaneously that “the EC will but consider the issue of printing separate ballot papers seriously”.

EC officials said they perceived the SC’s order not as the one that required separate ballot papers but a suggestion for future elections because the court had refused to issue an interim order.

Following the SC’s October 18 decision, the EC formed a committee on October 20 under its Joint-secretary Dinesh Ghimire to decide action in response to the SC ruling. The committee submitted its report on October 22, stating that printing two separate ballot papers would affect the poll calendar.

Published: 27-10-2017 07:33

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