Supreme Court resumes hearing lifetime disqualification case

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa Thursday said lifetime disqualification under Article 62(1)(F) was determined according to one’s own perception and not the Constitution.

The top judge’s remark came during the hearing of the case pertaining to the lifetime disqualification of lawmakers under the aforementioned article which deals with the criteria to contest elections.

A seven-member bench — headed by CJP Isa and comprising Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali — is hearing the case.

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan also appeared before the court. Lawyers Reema Omar, Azir Bhandari and Faisal Siddiqui have been appointed as amici curiae.

During the hearing, the chief justice also warned against spreading confusion related to elections, as the polls are being held on February 8. “Filing cases in different courts will create obstacles in the way of elections,” he noted.

Lawyer Khurram Raza who was representing petitioners Fayaz Ahmed Ghori and Sajjadul Hasan faced immense grilling by the seven-member bench — headed by the chief justice — for his defence of lifetime disqualification of parliamentarians.

At one point, CJP Isa observed that the counsel he was siding with “dictators”.

The lawyer argued that the constitutional amendment is needed to end lifelong disqualification.

At this, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail asked the lawyer whether the Parliament cannot legislate. “Parliament legislates but the Supreme Court interprets it,” Raza responded.

The case

The fate of many politicians, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif and Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) founder Jahangir Tareen, depends on the verdict of this case.

Whether the aforementioned politicians can contest the upcoming polls or not will be determined by the outcome of the case.

The SC conducted the last hearing of this case on January 2, during which CJP Isa advised against assuming that a particular party was being favoured.

After hearing all parties in the case during the last hearing, the CJP said: “This is a constitutional issue, which we are going to settle once and for all, and we will try to conclude it quickly in order to prevent confusion for the returning officers (ROs) while receiving nomination papers for the upcoming elections,” he remarked after hearing the parties.

The apex court took notice of contradictions regarding the duration of disqualification in the Election Act, 2017 and a Supreme Court verdict during the hearing of a petition filed by former PML-N provincial lawmaker Sardar Meer Badshah Khan Qaisrani last month.

Qaisrani had challenged his lifetime disqualification over a fake degree in 2007.

During the hearing on December 11 last year, CJP Faez Isa observed that the Supreme Court’s judgment on lifetime disqualification and the amendments made to the Elections Act 2017 could not exist simultaneously.

He had said either the legislation enacted by the parliament to the Elections Act 2017 would prevail or the judgment, delivered by the Supreme Court.

“The issue has to be settled once and for all,” the CJP had remarked and referred the matter to a three-member committee, constituted under Section 2 of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023 that decides fixation of cases before benches of the apex court.

The Supreme Court, in a judgment in 2018, had held that any person disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution would be considered disqualified for lifetime.

Later on, the former coalition government of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) made an amendment to the Elections Act 2017, decreasing the legislators’ disqualification to five years, retrospectively.

Former three-time prime minister Nawaz and IPP chief Tareen are the only two lawmakers who were disqualified for life in June and December 2017, respectively, after they were found to be “dishonest” under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution. 

The Supreme Court Thursday resumed the hearing on a case related to the lifetime disqualification of lawmakers under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa determined to settle the issue “once and for all”.

The apex court’s decision in the case is expected to significantly impact the country’s political landscape, as Pakistan heads towards a crucial general election, scheduled to take place on February 8.

A seven-member bench — headed by CJP Isa and comprising Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali — is conducting hearing on the case.

The proceedings of the case are being broadcast live on SC’s website and YouTube channel.

The fate of many politicians, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif and Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) founder Jahangir Tareen, depends on the verdict of this case.

Whether the aforementioned politicians can contest the upcoming polls or not will be determined once the apex court makes a decision.

The SC conducted the last hearing of this case on January 2, during which CJP Isa advised against assuming that a particular party was being favoured.

“This is a constitutional issue, which we are going to settle once and for all, and we will try to conclude it quickly in order to prevent confusion for the returning officers (ROs) while receiving nomination papers for the upcoming elections,” he remarked after hearing the parties.

The apex court took notice of contradictions regarding the duration of disqualification in the Election Act, 2017 and a Supreme Court verdict during the hearing of a petition filed by former PML-N provincial lawmaker Sardar Meer Badshah Khan Qaisrani last month.

Qaisrani had challenged his lifetime disqualification over a fake degree in 2007.

During the hearing on December 11 last year, CJP Faez Isa observed that the Supreme Court’s judgment on lifetime disqualification and the amendments made to the Elections Act 2017 could not exist simultaneously.

He had said either the legislation enacted by the parliament to the Elections Act 2017 would prevail or the judgment, delivered by the Supreme Court.

“The issue has to be settled once and for all,” the CJP had remarked and referred the matter to a three-member committee, constituted under Section 2 of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023 that decides fixation of cases before benches of the apex court.