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Article 184(3) for Public Interest and Elections 2024: Supreme Court May Form a Commission to Probe Mandate Manipulation  

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Hafeez Ahmed Khan

Article 184(3) of the Pakistani Constitution plays a crucial role in safeguarding public interest by empowering the Supreme Court to act on its own initiative (suo motu) in matters related to fundamental rights enshrined in Chapter 1 of Part II. It serves as a vital check on potential violations of fundamental rights that might otherwise go unnoticed or unaddressed. Here’s a detailed exploration of its importance and a critical evaluation:

Importance of Article 184(3):

  • Access to Justice: This provision facilitates access to justice for individuals and groups who lack the resources or means to pursue formal legal challenges against fundamental rights violations. It empowers marginalized communities and individuals to seek relief from powerful entities, promoting equality before the law.
  • Proactive Enforcement: Unlike traditional litigation, where individuals initiate proceedings, Article 184(3) encourages the Supreme Court to proactively identify and address fundamental rights violations. This can be particularly valuable in situations where fear, intimidation, or lack of awareness prevent individuals from coming forward.
  • Public Scrutiny and Accountability: Suo motu actions bring public attention to critical issues concerning fundamental rights, fostering public discourse and holding authorities accountable for upholding these rights. This can deter potential violations and encourage respect for human rights principles.
  • Deterrence and Corrective Action: By taking cognizance of violations and issuing remedial orders, the Supreme Court can deter future infringements and ensure timely corrective action, protecting individuals and upholding the rule of law.

Critical Evaluation of Article 184(3):

  • Potential for Misuse: The broad discretionary power vested in the Supreme Court raises concerns about potential misuse for political gains or personal agendas. Clearer guidelines and accountability mechanisms are needed to mitigate this risk.
  • Selective Intervention: Critics argue that suo motu actions may be selectively applied, overlooking certain violations while focusing on others based on subjective interpretations. Consistency and transparency in case selection are crucial.
  • Judicial Overreach: Concerns exist that suo motu actions might encroach upon the legislative and executive functions, disrupting the principle of separation of powers. Defining clear boundaries and respecting due process are essential.
  • Overburdening the Judiciary: Excessive reliance on suo motu actions can overburden the Supreme Court, hindering its capacity to handle existing cases efficiently. Establishing clear criteria for triggering such interventions is important.

Article 184(3) remains a powerful tool for promoting public interest and safeguarding fundamental rights in Pakistan. However, acknowledging its potential pitfalls and implementing safeguards are crucial to ensure its responsible and effective use. Striking a balance between upholding fundamental rights, respecting the separation of powers, and maintaining judicial accountability is key. Open dialogue, robust legal frameworks, and strong institutional checks and balances can help refine the application of this article and ensure it serves its intended purpose effectively.

Free and Fair Elections: A Cornerstone of Public Interest, but “General Will” – A Complex Notion

The assertion that free and fair elections and the mandate they confer are matters of serious public interest is undeniable. Elections serve as a fundamental pillar of democratic societies, allowing citizens to choose their representatives and influence the course of their nation. However, equating the outcome of elections with the “general will” of the people requires careful analysis.

Why Free and Fair Elections Matter:

  • Representation and Legitimacy: Elections provide a mechanism for citizens to hold their leaders accountable and ensure their government reflects their diverse interests and concerns. This fosters legitimacy and public trust in the political system.
  • Peaceful Transfer of Power: By offering a regular avenue for change, elections prevent the need for violent or undemocratic means of leadership transition. This promotes stability and peaceful co-existence.
  • Public Participation and Engagement: Elections encourage active citizenship, fostering informed debate and engagement in public affairs. This strengthens the social fabric and empowers individuals to contribute to their communities.

Critically Examining the “General Will”:

While elections offer a snapshot of public opinion, the concept of a singular “general will” representing the collective good of all citizens is a complex and contested notion. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Plurality of Interests and Values: Societies are inherently diverse, with individuals holding varied beliefs, priorities, and aspirations. An election outcome might represent the majority view, but it cannot capture the full spectrum of public opinion.
  • Tyranny of the Majority: The “general will” can sometimes be used to justify policies that marginalize or oppress minority groups. Safeguards like individual rights and constitutional protections are crucial to prevent such abuses.
  • Manipulation and Misinformation: Elections can be influenced by disinformation, voter suppression, and other forms of manipulation. This raises concerns about whether the outcome truly reflects the genuine will of the people.

Recognizing the limitations of the “general will” concept does not diminish the importance of free and fair elections. They remain a crucial tool for representing diverse interests and ensuring a government accountable to its citizens. However, it is essential to acknowledge the complexities involved and implement measures to:

  • Promote informed and inclusive participation: Civic education, media literacy, and accessibility measures can empower citizens to make informed choices.
  • Uphold minority rights and individual freedoms: Robust legal frameworks and strong institutions are vital to protect vulnerable groups and ensure a diverse range of voices are heard.
  • Combat manipulation and disinformation: Fact-checking initiatives, media transparency, and accountability mechanisms can help mitigate the influence of misinformation on electoral outcomes.

Free and fair elections are undoubtedly critical for public interest, but understanding the limitations of the “general will” concept is essential. By acknowledging the complexities involved and taking steps to address them, we can ensure elections remain a meaningful tool for representing diverse interests and promoting a more just and equitable society.

Accordingly, there are serious concerns and allegations of rigging and manipulating elections in 2024 in Pakistan. Then, most of the allegations are substantive and require scrutiny. Therefore, it is a matter of public interest, and the Supreme Court of Pakistan may take a suo moto notice of it and form a commission to dissect whether elections were rigged or not because the mandate of the people must be respected. 

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