By Mubeen Uddin Qazi
While re-examining the provisions of Article 51 of the Constitution, in order to avoid delay in holding of General Elections on the technical constitutional issue of re-allocation of seats on the basis of fresh Census, in my opinion a legal and Constitutional argument may be raised that Constitutional amendment would not be required for changing the allocation of seats to each province and ICT, on the basis of constitutional interpretation by reading the provisions of clauses (1), (3) and (5) of Article 51 in juxtaposition with each other.
The total number of seats for National Assembly have been fixed as 336 under clause (1).
Whereas, clause (3) describes the seats allocated to each province and ICT, on the basis of total number of seats mentioned in clause (1).
Whereas, clause (5) of Article 51 specifically provides that seats in the NA shall be allocated on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published.
Hence, under clause (5) the Constitution provides an automatic re-allocation of seats on the basis of population after every census on the basis of initial criteria of allocation mentioned in clause (3).
So clause (3) is a one off clause for the purposes of a baseline for future therefore, for future reallocation no further constitutional amendment would be required and clause (5) shall have automatic effect after every officially published census.
Whereas, the Election Commissione of Pakistan is empowered to conduct Elections under Article 218 read with Articles 219 and 222 and to make arrangements to ensure that elections are held, not only honestly but also “justly” and “fairly”, and further empowered to conduct delimitation of Constituencies.
Hence, ECP in exercise of power under Article 218(3) read with 51(5) may delimit constituencies after re-allocating seats.
So in the absence of National Assembly, no constitutional amendment is required for reallocation of seats on the basis of fresh census.
Opinion of the Supreme Court in its Advisory Jurisdiction under Article 186 of the Constitution may be invoked for interpretation of the provisions of clauses (1), (3) and (5) of Article 51, keeping in view the special circumstances arisen due to fresh census and absence of National Assembly. PAK DESTINY
Mr Mubeen Uddin Qazi is a senior advocate Supreme Court and analyst