Supreme Court reserves verdict in Article 62-1F disqualification duration case

February 14, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan Wednesday reserved its verdict in the case regarding duration for the disqualification of the members of the Parliament incurred under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

A five-member larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, heard several identical petitions to stipulate the timeframe for which a lawmaker would stand disqualified in the wake of violation under Article-62-1F of the Constitution.

Appearing before the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali said the Constitution needs to be amended to specify duration of disqualification of any member of the Parliament who was found to have been guilty.

He wondered if the disqualification of the lawmakers will continue even after the death, as no limit of time has been set in the law.

The court said that the 18th Amendment passed in 2010, does not spell out any time period for disqualification; hence, the duration for disqualification will continue for as long as the declaration holds.

The CJP said, “In absence of specification of the timeframe, the disqualification will be for lifetime.”

In earlier hearing, Azhar Siddiqui counsel for civil society claimed that the election law paved the way for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to become party head violates Islamic teachings.

However, the chief justice remarked that if the counsel wanted to examine Section 203 of election law with touchstone of religious provision, he should approach the Federal Shariat Court (FSC).

He observed that the apex court had no jurisdiction as it was an exclusive domain of the FSC.

The court asked Siddiqui to outline provisions in the Constitution that had been violated through the election law.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawyer Advocate Gohar Nawaz Sindhu requested to disqualify lawmakers who had voted in favour of this law.

Upon this the chief justice remarked that the bench would slap heavy fine if the petition did not hold up.

The court noted that some parameters had to be set in order to filter filing of frivolous petition.

One of the petitioners’ Advocate Zulifqar Bhutta adopted the arguments presented by MNA Sheikh Rashid’s lawyer, Barrister Farogh Naseem, and PPP’s counsel, Latif Khosa, in previous hearings.

He said there was no way a person disqualified by the apex court could become a political party chief.

To this, the chief justice remarked that the new law passed by Parliament could allow any convicted person to assume the position of political party head.

The chief justice remarked that the apex court could only nullify a law if it contradicts the Constitution. He also pointed out that a representative of the Election Commission of Pakistan was in the standing committee when the Elections Act 2017 was being drafted.

Counsel Asma Jahangir, representing Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf’s disqualified lawmaker Rai Hasan Nawaz, said, “How can the court undertake a job that politicians fail to do?”

The Parliament alone should decide on the political matters; however, the Parliament is not free and independent so far, she asserted.

However, the CJP responded, “We do not agree to this. We believe the Parliament is wholly independent.”

When Asma said the maximum period of disqualification should be five years under Article 62, CJP Nisar remarked that the lawmakers may decide minimum and maximum limit of sentences; however, in such an instance the court will decide the sentences on case-to-case basis.