- Apex court’s three-member bench gives 2-1 verdict in favour of AML chief
- Justice Isa suggests matter should be referred to full court
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled in Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Ahmed Rasheed’s favour in the misdeclaration of assets case against him.
A three-member bench of the apex court, comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, rejected the election appeal of Malik Shakeel Awan who had accused Rasheed of misdeclaring his assets in the nomination forms that he had submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the general elections in 2013.
The SC bench ruled 2-1 in Rasheed’s favour, with Justice Isa writing the dissenting note and recommending that the case be sent to a full court for further hearings.
The apex court had closed the hearing on the election dispute on March 20 after listening to both sides.
The 2-1 decision was read out by Justice Saeed. In his dissenting note, Justice Isa recommended constitution of a bench, preferably a Full Court since every judge has heard election disputes thereby acquiring knowledge to help decide questions of law raised by the appeal. The questions outlined by Justice Isa include are as following:
Does every non-disclosure or mideclaration in the nomination form result in the disqualification of a candidate or only those whereby one has circumvented some inherent legal disability to participate in an election?
If a petition does not disclose the particular facts, on the basis of which disqualification is sought can these be considered when subsequently disclosed in the affidavit in evidence of the petitioner or which may otherwise be discovered during the hearing before the tribunal or court?
Does Article 225 of the Constitution exclude the application of Article 184(3) of the Constitution to election disputes?
If the answer to the foregoing question is in the negative then is an election dispute regarding an individual’s qualification or disqualification a matter of “public importance” which requires the ‘enforcement’ of a fundamental right and if so can it be determined under Article 184(3) of the Constitution?
If the answer to the foregoing question is in the affirmative, are the procedural and evidentiary rules governing election petitions and appeals under the ROPA the same as those governing petitions under Article 184(3) of the Constitution?
Does the “court of law” mentioned in Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution include the Supreme Court when exercising jurisdiction under Article 184(3)?
If a candidate is disqualified on account of non-disclosure or misdeclaration does such disqualification subsist only till the next election or is it permanent?
Justice Saeed, however, while authoring majority opinion said he was unable to append signatures of concurrence as the minority opinion suggested that the decision of the instant appeal be deferred till the questions as raised and enumerated are adjudicated by the Full Court.
“Such exercise, if undertaken, is unlikely to be completed before the proposed general elections. Election disputes at the stage of scrutiny of the nomination papers and subsequent proceedings before the Election Tribunals, high court and top court are integral part of the election process both legally and politically.”
Justice Saeed noted that if Justice Isa’s suggestions were followed then all the election disputes, which will inevitably crop up before Returning Officers (RO), tribunals and high court and SC would also not be adjudicated upon till the decision of said appeal since the disputes more often than not revolve around the questions raised by Justice Isa.
“In such circumstances, the very validity of the proposed General Elections of 2018 would become questionable and the acceptance of its result by the participants almost impossible.”
Advocate Sheikh Ilyas, who represented Awan in the case, had argued during the hearing that Sheikh Rasheed was involved in the concealment of assets as he had shown rent from properties as his source of income and Rs2.2 million as profit from bank accounts when his bank statement reflected Rs5.3m from which Rs2.2m profit seemed not plausible.
Besides, Rasheed mentioned 983-kanal agricultural land in the nomination papers for the 2013 general elections while he actually owned 1,081-kanal agricultural land, the counsel had said.
Similarly, he added, Rasheed showed the purchase of one-kanal land in the Bahria Gold City for over Rs10m when the booking price of the land was over Rs48m, whereas the current market price of the same land was around Rs60m.
The lawyer contended that the Representation of Peoples Act (RoPA) 1976 obligated all intending candidates to disclose their entire assets. The Panamagate verdict was the latest SC judgement over the concealment of assets in which Sheikh Rasheed also was one of the petitioners.
‘WOULD’VE ACCEPTED VERDICT EVEN IF IT WASN’T IN MY FAVOUR’:
Speaking to the media outside the apex court, Rasheed thanked God for bestowing him with respect.
“I have done nothing wrong and never hid any of my assets,” he said. “God is great, He has bestowed me with respect yet again.”
In a jibe at the PML-N supremo, the AML chief said he would have accepted the verdict even if it was not in his favour because he was not Nawaz Sharif.
The petitioner remarked that his case was in the Election Tribunal for 18 months. “The verdict on my case was reserved for 84 days,” Awan said.
The PML-N leader, however, told journalists that he trusted the judiciary and would continue to knock the doors of courts to seek justice.