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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has turned down the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) former legislator Faisal Vawda’s plea to suspend the Election Commission of Pakistan’s verdict on his lifelong disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial Tuesday heard Vawda’s appeal against the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and the ECP’s decisions.

Justice Bandial said this order is with consensus.

Wasim Sajjad, representing the PTI leader, at the conclusion of the proceeding prayed before the bench to suspend the judgments, as the election on the Senate vacant seat will be held on 9th March. He said the person elected on the vacant seat will attend the Senate sessions and would also participate in debates and the voting process (on various bills/resolutions).

The ECP had disqualified Vawda for submitting false affidavit regarding dual citizenship along with his nomination paper for contesting the National Assembly election in July 2018. The Commission also directed Vawda to return the salary and other benefits he had received as an MNA within two months. It also withdrew the notification declaring the PTI leader’s victory on a Senate seat in polls held in March 2021.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar told the counsel; “We have already given you big relief as the result on the Senate seat is subject to the final order of the apex court.” The bench issued notices to the attorney general for Pakistan and the respondents.

Sajjad contended that Vawda was US national by birth and he did not acquire the American nationality. He further stated Vawda did not hide anything from the ECP and had also submitted his canceled US passport. Upon that Justice Bandial said, “What we are seeing is your (Vawda) conduct.” He said Vawda has prolonged the court and the ECP proceedings.

The court said would consider the question whether the ECP has the power to disqualify an elected public lawmaker for life without having jurisdiction.

At the onset of the proceeding, Sajjad raised number of points particularly, the jurisdiction of the Commission to disqualify a person, holding office of elected representatives in the legislature, for life under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution. He cited the Supreme Court’s judgment on Samiullah Baloch, which reiterated the SC’s judgment on Allah Dino Bahio, wherein, it is stated that such finding can only be recorded by the court of law.

He argued that the ECP is not vested with the power and jurisdiction of court under Article 218 read with Section 8 of the Election Act, 2017 to disqualify a lawmaker under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution. He further submitted that the jurisdiction of the ECP that is vested under Section 9 of the Act 2017 is a transitory power in correcting an action in the matter concerning the election process. He said the sunset clause (Elections (Third Amendment) Ordinance 2021) made it binding that the notification of the returned candidate need to be issued within 60 days, adding his client was elected on July 25, 2018.

The counsel submitted that the ECP proceedings commenced in pursuance of the IHC order in March 2021. He stated that the High Court has no power to confer the ECP constitutional jurisdiction, which is entrusted to either the Election Tribunal under Article 225 or the High Court under Article 199 of the Constitution. He said in the instant matter neither jurisdiction was exercised.

Sajjad said even death sentences handed by courts are confirmed by the high court.

“This is not a death sentence,” said Justice Bandial.

This is political death, the lawyer responded, while adding that many judgments have termed the disqualification under 62(1)(f) akin to political death.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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