SC larger bench to determine lifetime disqualification issue

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has finally constituted a five-judge larger bench to determine whether disqualification of lawmakers under Article 62(1)(f) is for life or time specific.

The five-judge larger bench is headed by the chief justice himself and comprised Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah will take up 17 cases related to the disqualification of parliamentarians on January 30.

The larger bench will determine whether their disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) is perpetual.

Kamran Murtaza, who is counsel of some MPAs in same matter, told The Express Tribune that the top court is expected to decide the question before the general elections.

He informed that a larger bench headed by former chief justice Jamali had already conducted a couple of hearings regarding the matter.

However, after Justice Jamali’s retirement, the matter was not taken up.

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Murtaza said dozens of cases had been clubbed together to decide the legal question.

“I personally feel that the Supreme Court should allow parliamentarians disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution to contest the elections and let the people decide about their future,” he added.

Legal experts believe that the proceedings on the matter will be significant because it will decide the fate of several parliamentarians, including PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, who have been disqualified under the said article.

Recently, both Sharif and Tareen were disqualified under the same constitutional provision on the charges of concealing their assets in nomination papers as election candidates.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had disqualified parliamentarians for possessing fake graduation degrees and dual nationality.

Lawyers believe these parliamentarians may get relief if the Supreme Court declares that disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) is time-specific.

At present, former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s judgments are in force, holding that disqualification under the article is for life.

However, some earlier verdicts did not envisage permanent disqualification.

During the hearing of those cases, former chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali had wondered how anyone could be disqualified from participating in the elections forever on the basis of Articles 62 and 63, saying people could reform themselves to be qualified under the provisions at some point of time.

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A couple of months ago, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, while hearing a case related to a local representative of the Multan Cantonment Board, also granted leave to determine the same question.

Sardar Muhammad Aslam was a counsel in that case.

Pakistan Bar Council member Azam Nazeer Tarar also said it was the best time for the top court to decide the question once and for all.

He claimed that the court had issued varying judgments on the disqualification of parliamentarians on the same grounds.

On concealing assets, the court in the Iftikhar Cheema case had only ordered de-seating. Cheema contested the by-election and became member of the National Assembly again.

However, in a separate case, the Supreme Court disqualified Rai Hassan Nawaz under Article 62(1)(f) which was apparently a lifelong ineligibility, he added.

Tarar said the situation with respect to cases of fake degrees was similar. The court allowed Jamshaid Dasti to contest election again but disqualified Rizwan Gill, Samina Khawar Hayat and Amir Yar under Article 62(1)(f).

He said the case of Haji Nasir Iqbal was also interesting because he was disqualified as parliamentarian under Article 62 in 2010, but was recently allowed to contest election for the post of mayor in Gujrat because the provisions of Articles 62 and 63 were not applicable to local bodies’ representatives in Punjab.

Tarar also mentioned issues on the judgments related to Sharif, Tareen and PTI chief Imran Khan.

Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution states, “A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament) unless he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, and honest and Ameen.”

A person convicted in a criminal case would be barred for five years after imprisonment; one convicted under the NAB Ordinance would be disqualified for 10 years after his release; and in a contempt case, an individual would be disqualified for five years.

However, it is interesting to note that a person giving a false statement before court or concealing his assets’ details in nomination papers would be disqualified for the rest of his life.

However, Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Haris did not argue that point before a larger bench during the hearing of the review petition filed by the former prime minister over his disqualification.

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