ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution under which a lawmaker is disqualified for life, is a “draconian law”.
A three-judge bench, headed by the chief justice, was hearing the appeal of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s former senator Faisal Vawda, against the verdicts of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Vawda has challenged his lifelong disqualification by the ECP and the subsequent ruling by the IHC.
During the proceedings today, CJ Bandial observed that “Article 62(1) (f) is a draconian provision”, adding, we have to see whether the ECP can disqualify the legislator, permanently.
According to Article 62(1) (f) of the Constitution, a person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) “unless — he is sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law”.
Under Article 62(1) (f) Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Quaid and former leader PTI Jehangir Tareen were disqualified for life by different benches of the apex court in 2017.
During the proceeding, Waseem Sajjad informed the bench that his client had contested elections in 2018 and two years later a disqualification petition was filed in the high court for submitting a false affidavit. The bench said that the ECP has the power to investigate a false affidavit.
“Even if the SC declares the lifetime disqualification orders illegal, the facts would remain the same,” remarked CJ Bandial, adding that the ECP has “properly reviewed” the case. “The IHC has clearly stated in its judgment that Faisal Vawda had accepted dual citizenship,” argued advocate Farooq H Naek.
“The only question, in this case, is whether or not the ECP can issue orders for lifetime disqualification,” observed CJ Bandial.
The ECP in February this year had disqualified Vawda for concealing his US citizenship and directed him to return the salary and other benefits he had received as a minister and as a member of the National Assembly, within two months. It had also de-notified him as a senator.
In his petition, Vawda has sought to set aside a declaration by the ECP on February 9 which led to his disqualification as a lawmaker for life.
Vawda pleaded that the ECP had cited no reason for invoking Article 62(1f) of the Constitution to disqualify him for life. The commission appears to be under an impression that any person disqualified under Article 63(1c) — for having dual nationality — could automatically be penalised under Article 62(1f), he said.
In order to incur a penalty under Article 62(1) (f), there must be mens rea (criminal intent), as well as, evidence before a court of law, the petitioner said, but “both are missing in the ECP’s pronouncement”.
The ECP had disqualified Vawda for life by invoking Article 62(1f), even though the Supreme Court had held in Allah Dino Bhayo case last year that the commission was not a court of law, he said. The case was adjourned for tomorrow (October 6).
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022