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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial has said only the court can disqualify any legislator under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, but it is not easy banning someone for life.

He stated that while heading a three-judge bench, which on Thursday heard an 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. The chief justice observed that no one can be declared dishonest without examining the evidence, adding that “it is not so easy to disqualify someone for life”. The CJP further said; “Judicial declaration means recording of evidence. The Supreme Court (SC) in its judgments has set criteria for the application of Article 62(1)(f).”

Waseem Sajjad, representing PTI leader Faisal Vawda, argued that the former senator neither concealed facts nor did anything in bad faith. Upon that, Justice Mansoor inquired; “When did Faisal Vawda submit his nomination papers?”

The chief justice observed that Faisal Vawda had renounced his US citizenship after submitting his nomination papers before the ECP. He said in the instant matter, the debate should be whether the disqualification is limited to contest the next elections or it is for life.

Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution: Disqualification law pilloried by CJP with vehemence

The lawyer informed that the PTI leader submitted his nomination papers on June 7, 2018, and scrutiny took place on June 18. Justice Mansoor further asked, “When did Faisal Vawda submit the affidavit?”

Waseem Sajjad replied; “Vawda submitted the affidavit on June 11, 2018. The returning officer was also told that he had given up his US nationality. Vawda went to the US Embassy and stated that he is giving up his nationality.” The PTI leader also got his National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) cancelled, he added.

Justice Mansoor asked the counsel did his client go to the embassy and verbally tell them to cancel the passport? Sajjad responded; “He didn’t have to give the proof of cancelling the nationality.”

Justice Mansoor remarked that Faisal did not bother to clear the issue of dual citizenship before submitting his affidavit on June 11. Justice Ayesha maintained that Vawda’s US citizenship had not been cancelled at the time of filing the affidavit.

Vawda’s lawyer told the court that the real question is the declaration of life-long disqualification which the commission cannot pass. The chief justice said the declaration of life-long disqualification can only be passed by the Court.

Waseem Sajjad said Article 63(1)(c) applies to dual citizenship, adding a member holding dual citizenship is only de-seated, not disqualified for life under Article 62(1)(f).

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(1)(c) — for having dual nationality — could automatically be penalised under Article 62(1f), he said.

The case was adjourned until October 12.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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