–Asma Jahangir enquires under what procedure court will establish character of person
–CJP says disqualification under the law will be valid till ‘declaration is admissible’
–Asks if person sentenced to life imprisonment can remain the head of a party
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday admitted the ambiguity of the Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution, saying that “the interpretation would be a difficult task”.
The CJP made the observation as a five-judge larger bench headed by Chief Justice Nisar and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah resumed hearing of 17 appeals against the disqualification of lawmakers.
Over the course of the hearing, disqualified Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Rai Hasan Nawaz’s counsel Asma Jahangir termed the Article 62 (1)(f) as vague, as she prayed the court to merge the Article 62 and 63.
The Article 62(1)(f) sets the precondition for a parliamentarian to be “sadiq and ameen” (honest and righteous). It was also used to oust the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from the office in the Panama Papers case in July 2017.
Responding to Asma’s argument, the CJP asked that “how an ambiguous article can be defined and be nullified, if one considers Article 62(1)(f) unclear”, as he admitted the ambiguity in the article. He further said that Articles 62 and 63 are independent articles, adding that the disqualification under the law will be valid till the “declaration is admissible”.
Replying to Jahangir’s recommendation of setting the disqualification period to five years, CJP Nisar remarked that it was possible they decide minimum and maximum sentences, adding that in such an instance the court would decide the sentence case-to-case.
Moreover, the chief justice observed that it is not the court’s prerogative to set a time period on its own. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed remarked chipped in, saying that “the period of disqualification under article 62-1/F was not mentioned in the 18th Amendment [as well]”.
Questioning the complexity of the law, Jahangir enquired under what procedure the fame or character of a person will be established. “Which court will declare the character of a person?”
Replying to Jahangir’s arguments, Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked the court can resolve “solid questions”, whereas Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked the legislators don’t want that a ‘dishonest’ person takes part in legislation.
In an apparent reference to the constant axe of disqualification being hung over parliamentarians head, she went on to say that parliament was not a free and independent body.
CJP Nisar replied that the notion is incorrect. However, the counsel maintained that parliament should decide political matters and not any other institution” in order to not get undermined.
Justice Ahsan wondered during the hearing how a dishonest person can become honest after some time, adding that the standard of ‘ideal people’ should be high.
To this, counsel Jahangir responded that such ‘high-standard’ people can be brought from outside Pakistan as they would not be found in the country.
After Jahangir completed her arguments, the bench adjourned the hearing till February 12 and directed the federal Attorney General to appear before the court on the next hearing to present his arguments.
CAN A POLITICAL PARTY BE RUN FROM JAIL?
Separately, while hearing petitions against the Elections Act 2017, CJP Nisar observed whether a person being party head can run affairs from jail or not.
The act paved the way for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to become the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) head.
The three-member bench asked PTI lawyer Babar Awan if someone convicted for life imprisonment can remain the head of a party?
“Can a person who ridicules the judiciary be allowed to become a party head subsequently controlling legislative and executive affairs,” the CJP questioned as he referred to Article 5 of the Constitution.
‘SADIQ AND AMEEN’:
Article 62(1)(f) reads: “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, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law.”
On December 15, last year, the Supreme Court had disqualified Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Jahangir Tareen for failing to declare an offshore company and a foreign property in his election nomination papers.
Similarly, then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified on July 28, 2017, for concealing in his nomination papers the receivable income from his son’s company in UAE.