Expressing hope of coming up with a decision in prime minister’s disqualification case in the next hearing, the Supreme Court of Pakistan Wednesday discussed as to what should be the appropriate forum for deciding the disqualification of a parliamentarian after the passage of 18th Amendment.
While heading a three-member SC bench, hearing petitions filed by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Gauhar Nawaz and Ishaq Khakwani seeking disqualification of prime minister, acting Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Jawwad S Khawaja sought assistance from the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) on deciding four questions relating to the disqualification of a parliamentarian.
The bench questioned that what will be the ‘appropriate forum’ to disqualify a parliamentarian. If courts are the correct forum, then which court will be competent to initiate the trail, what will be the procedure regarding the disqualification of a parliamentarian and what kind of evidences will be required to disqualify a parliamentarian, the court questioned.
During the hearing, Justice Khawaja also asked whether Article 10-A of the Constitution will be applicable and who will have the locus standi to challenge the qualification before the competent court. He said that it is the will of people that their representative should be ‘Sadiq and Ameen’.
Justice Khawaja added that they had no concern whether the premier or the interior minister are disqualified in this case or not as they were duty bound to give a ruling in accordance with the Constitution, regardless of the results it could bear.
For this part, AGP Salman Aslam Butt contended before the bench that the court has already decided to form a larger bench to decide issues pertaining to the disqualification of parliamentarians, therefore this case should be referred to the same bench as well.
On the other hand, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmani observed that sitting parliamentarians had qualified for the assembly by passing the test of Sadiq and Ameen in view of Article 62 of the Constitution. He added that after the insertion of 18th Amendment, Retuning Officers (ROs) could not disqualify a candidate until and unless he was convicted by a court of law.
Earlier, ROs had disqualified the candidates over minor issues, therefore the legislature inserted a clause that no one can be disqualified unless they are declared to be disqualified by a court of law.
Justice Osmani asked the petitioner to explain the clause of the Constitution which says that a liar could be disqualified from the parliament. He also made it clear that there was no remedy against the National Assembly speaker’s ruling regarding the qualification of any MNA.
Justice Khawaja further observed that if the court takes notice on media statements of parliamentarians, then the whole parliament will be disqualified.
Moreover, Irfan Qadir, the counsel for PTI leader Ishaq Ahmad Khakwani, expressed his dissatisfaction over the court’s proceedings in PM disqualification case. He stated that 65 days have passed since the case had been filed, but no meaningful hearing has conducted.
Further, the counsel has requested the bench to fix their matter related to the recusal of Justice Khawaja first. He also raised question over the impartiality of registrar office in this matter. He also requested Justice Khawaja, who is performing duty as acting CJ, to fix appeal against registrar office’s order, wherein their plea regarding his recusal was returned after objections.
Justice Khawaja told Qadir that another petitioner, Insaf Lawyers Forum Senior Vice President Gohar Sindhu, was asking that he should hear his case but he was requesting for recusal.