Legal battle: Pleas for premier’s disqualification referred to CJP

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 4:44:57 by


A Supreme Court bench on Monday rejected the government’s plea for dismissal of an application seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and referred the case – and three similar petitions – to the country’s chief justice.

“The office is directed to place the file before the Hon’ble chief justice for further orders deemed appropriate by him including, if deemed fit by him, constitution of a larger bench,” reads the order issued by the three-judge bench, headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja.

“It will be better to jointly hear all the petitions seeking disqualification of a member of parliament, so that the court may give a single verdict on the petitions. [After the SC’s verdict] there would be no issue in future regarding the merit or criteria for electing public representation in 1,077 electoral constituencies,” it adds.

The court also suggested that senior advocates of the bar – Hamid Khan, Raza Rabbani and Khawaja Haris – assist the court as amicus curiae.

The bench was hearing at its Quetta registry the appeal filed by Insaf Lawyer Forum’s Advocate Gohar Nawaz Sindhu. The petitioner claimed that the prime minister had lied on the floor of the National Assembly and defamed the army and therefore stood disqualified under Article 63 of the Constitution.

The bench said the Lahore High Court’s September 2 verdict to dismiss the petition was not on merit as the petition raised many constitutional questions of far-reaching consequences. “It is of utmost importance that the foregoing constitutional question is adjudicated because the same challenges as to qualifications/disqualifications, eligibility of elected members of parliament … are a recurring phenomenon and for the same reason it is necessary that courts, returning officers and election tribunals etc receive guidelines by way of precedent in terms of Article 189,” the bench noted. “The learned [LHC] single bench did not touch upon the merits of the petition but dismissed it as being not maintainable.”

Earlier, the petitioner said that under Article 63 of the Constitution, a member of parliament who defamed or ridiculed the army stood disqualified.

tTherefore, he said, the court should disqualify the prime minister and his interior minister.

Advocate Sindhu said the court reserved the right to punish those who defame the judiciary; so it also came under the court’s jurisdiction to issue a verdict on his appeal.

Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt, however, argued that the petition had earlier been dismissed by the LHC, which had said that it is a political issue and should be addressed at a political forum rather than in the court.  “The appeal should, therefore, be dismissed,” the AGP said. The bench, however, rejected the request and referred the case to the CJP.

As many as four petitions were filed in the Supreme Court seeking disqualification of the prime minister. The respondents include Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the defence secretary.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2014.

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