CJ questions rationale behind lifetime disqualification after completing sentence

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ISLAMABAD, DEC 11 (DNA) — Chief Justice Faez Isa on Monday wondered how a person could still remain disqualified for life after completing the sentence and added that the Supreme Court had two different opinions on lifetime disqualification.

The remarks came during the hearing of a case heard by a Supreme Court bench headed by the chief justice, which also comprised Justice Athar Minallah, which pertains to the lifetime disqualification of Sardar Meer Badshah Qaisrani – a former member of Punjab Assembly – before the 2018 elections.

Chief Justice Isa asked the additional attorney general about the federal government’s stance on lifetime disqualification, to which he replied that the Section 232 of Election Act was above the Supreme Court judgement, fixing the disqualification period at five years.

As a result, the country’s top judge took notice of the contradiction between the Supreme Court’s judgement on lifetime disqualification and the amendment made in the Election Act by parliament during the Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition government.

The Supreme Court issued notices to the attorney general and the provincial advocate generals while making it clear that the matter under review would not be used as pretext to delay the general elections scheduled for Feb 8.

It also sent the question of lifetime disqualification to the three-member committee, of which the chief justice and two senior most judges are members, for the formation of a larger bench to decide the matter.

Citing the reasons behind the orders, the Supreme Court noted that the confusion on whether to follow the Election Act or the Supreme judgement was damaging to democracy and would affect the decision-making of officials and tribunals overseeing the upcoming elections.

The Supreme Court said the next hearing of the matter under review currently would be held next month – January 2014 – and ordered that the notice taken in connection with the present case should be published in the country’s top two English dailies.

Meanwhile, the latest developments in the apex court can have far-reaching effects on Pakistan’s politics as three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif is a main victim of lifetime disqualification.

However, he has already been acquitted in the Avenfield case and the Islamabad High Court is expected to soon complete the hearing of Al-Azizia reference, as the elder Sharif wants a clean chit to contest the upcoming elections on the basis of his innocence and being wrongly convicted in 2017.

But the notice taken by the chief justice and the subsequent orders leading to a larger bench to make a decision on lifetime disqualification will certainly settle a burning political issue once for all. — DNA