CJP says Elections Act 2017 review not Nawaz Sharif specific

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–Chief Justice Nisar says SC will look at the bigger picture to ascertain legislation’s implications

–Dismisses lawyer’s claim that Election Act 2017 was in violation of Islamic teachings, says SC has no jurisdiction in religious matters

 

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday stated that the Supreme Court (SC) was not limiting its review of the Elections Act 2017 to deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif alone, and would take a holistic view of the legislation to ascertain its implications.

Heading a three-judge that resumed hearing arguments in the petitions challenging the Election Act 2017, Chief Justice Nisar also said that the apex court has no jurisdiction to interpret the election law on the basis of Islamic injunction.

Justice and Democratic Party’s (JDP) lawyer Sheikh Ahsanuddin claimed that the amended Elections Act was only passed to enable Nawaz Sharif to retake his position as chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), even though the Constitution does not allow a disqualified person to head a political party.

Taking the floor, Advocate Bhutta echoed arguments presented by Awami Muslim League (AML) Chairman Sheikh Rasheed’s lawyer Barrister Farogh Naseem and Pakistan People’s Party’s counsel, Latif Khosa, in previous hearings. He said that there was no way a person disqualified by the apex court could become a political party chief. To this, the CJP reminded him that the new law passed by parliament could allow any convicted person to assume the position of political party head.

On Feb 6, Naseem had made a similar argument that the Elections Act 2017 was passed only 17 days after Nawaz’s disqualification, which indicated its mala fide intent. When the CJP asked how the appointment of a disqualified person as party chief contradicts the Constitution, he had said that according to Article 63-A of the Constitution, important powers were vested in the office of party chief, including the disqualification of a legislator belonging to their party.

“The party chief can [thus] also influence legislation and the election of a prime minister [by exercising that power],” Naseem had argued.

Khosa, in his arguments on Feb 7, had raised similar questions over the timing of the passage of the Elections Act 2017, terming it “suspicious”. He said that the Act negated Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution and the court had the authority to protect it.

In Friday’s hearing, Chief Justice Nisar said that the apex court can only nullify a law if it contradicts the Constitution. He also pointed out that a representative of the Election Commission of Pakistan was in the Standing Committee when the Elections Act 2017 was being drafted.

NO SC JURISDICTION IN MATTERS OF RELIGION:

Dasti’s lawyer Azhar Siddique argued that any legislation passed by the National Assembly cannot undo Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution. He further stressed that a political party chief “can influence millions of voters.”

Siddique claimed that the recently passed election law also violates Islamic teachings. However, Chief Justice Nisar remarked that if the counsel wanted to examine Section 203 of Election law with touchstone of religious provision, he should approach the Federal Shariat Court.

“It is an exclusive domain of the FSC,” he said. “We have no jurisdiction,” said the CJP.

The court asked Siddiqui to outline provisions in the Constitution that have been violated through the election law. The bench also hinted that the lawyer may have to pay a heavy cost for filing of a frivolous petition.

Responding to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) lawyer Gohar Nawaz Sindhu request to disqualify lawmakers who had voted in favour of this law, the CJP remarked that the bench will slap heavy fine if the petition does not hold up.

The court noted that some parameters had to be set in order to filter filing of frivolous petition.

The hearing was later adjourned till Monday, Feb 12.

In Thursday’s hearing, Chief Justice Nisar had observed that matters related to Nawaz Sharif becoming the head of a political party do not fall under the purview of the Article 6 of the Constitution.

The bench had asked PTI lawyer Babar Awan, if someone sentenced to life imprisonment could remain party head. The CJP also noted that PML-N’s constitution gives immense power to the party head. He then questioned whether or not a person being party head could run its affairs from behind bars.

When Awan cited judgements to substantiate his case, the CJP asked him whether any law made by parliament can be struck down on the basis of a judge’ opinion. Likewise, is there any judgment, wherein a law has been struck down on a person-specific or mala fide basis, he added.

The CJP said that parliament is the supreme law-making body, but if it makes a bad law, there is need to establish this as a fact through constitutional provisions.

 

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. He also pointed out that a representative of the Election Commission of Pakistan was in the Standing Committee when the Elections Act 2017 was being drafted.
    The heads of ECP are appointed on the bases of servile obedience to comply with the whim and will of the rulers, there is great abundance of people in Pakistan ready and willing to sell their soul for some benefit, work against national interest, work against merit, honesty and fair play. The SC should hold the representative of the ECP to account, it was duty bound to ring the alarm bell when such a dodgy election act was being conceived. If the SC doesn’t punish the culprits , malafide practice will continue unabated with out fear accountability.

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