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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa noted a discrepancy between the Supreme Court’s judgment on lifetime disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution and the amendment made to the Election Act, 2017.

The CJP made these remarks while heading a three-judge bench, which heard the disqualification case of a former MPA of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Mir Badshah Khan Qaisrani, who was disqualified for concealing assets in 2014.

Justice Faez said the Supreme Court’s verdict on lifetime disqualification and the amendments made to the Elections Act, 2017, could not co-exist, adding the discrepancies in the SC’s interpretation and the law could result in “confusion” in the upcoming general elections, therefore, referred the matter to the judges’ committee for the constitution of a bench on the issue of disqualification.

The apex court scheduled the hearing for January as it issued notices to the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) and provincial advocate generals.

During the hearing, Justice Faez observed that the SC had two opinions on lifetime disqualification. “Disqualification in NAB [National Accountability Bureau] cases appear to be strict. How long will the disqualification be in a murder case?” he questioned. The Court noted that an appeal against the disqualification sentence is pending before the Lahore High Court, and the Supreme Court will only look at the question of disqualification.

Justice Athar Minallah, a member of the bench, observed that the case was related to the 2018 elections. He questioned whether it was feasible to hear it now that the next general elections were right around the corner. He, however, said there should be no uncertainly regarding the next elections, and if anyone tries to encourage it will be contempt of the court.

The court observed that the current matter will not be allowed to be used as a tool to delay the February 8, 2024 polls, urging for notices regarding the case to be published in two mainstream English dailies.

The chief justice inquired from the Additional Attorney General (AAG) about the opinion of the federal government regarding lifetime disqualification. The AAG replied that according to the federation, Section 232 of the Elections Act is superior to the decision of the Supreme Court. The SC remarked that the petitioner was sentenced to two years with a disqualification on the basis of a fake degree.

The petitioner's counsel contended that the disqualification of Mir Badshah Qaisrani is for life. The court declared that the period of disqualification under Section 232 of the Elections Act has been set at five years.

The AAG, Section 232 will override the Supreme Court's verdict of lifetime disqualification, adding the court has interpreted lifelong disqualification in Article 62(1).

In 2018, a five-judge bench of the SC had unanimously held that disqualification handed down under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution is for life.

Under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of Pakistan, which sets the precondition for a member of parliament to be “sadiq and ameen” (honest and righteous), former prime minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the SC bench on July 28, 2017, in references pertaining to the Panama Papers. Similarly, former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Tareen was disqualified by a separate bench of the apex court under the same provision.

According to the lawyers, Section 232 of the Elections Act was not challenged. This issue will cause confusion to the returning officers in the upcoming elections.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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