Disqualifying anyone for life against Islam: CJP Faez Isa

Top court adjourns hearing of lifetime disqualification case till 9am tomorrow; SC seeks “clarity” on matter

By
Maryam Nawaz

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa. — Supreme Court website
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa. — Supreme Court website
  • SC's decision to decide fate of Nawaz, Tareen's participation in polls.
  • 7-member bench, headed by CJP Isa, adjourns hearing till tomorrow.
  • SC determined to settle issue of disqualification "once and for all".


ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa Thursday remarked that disqualifying anyone for life from parliament is "against Islam", as the Supreme Court conducted the hearing of a case pertaining to lifetime disqualification of lawmakers under Article 62(1)(F) of the Constitution.

The apex court had taken notice of contradictions regarding the duration of disqualification in the Election Act, 2017, and an apex court verdict during a past hearing on 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.

"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," CJP Isa had remarked during the previous hearing of the case. 

Today, 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 — presided over the hearing.

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

Proceedings were broadcast live on SC's website and YouTube channel.

During the hearing, the top judge said that the court was seeking “clarity” on whether the disqualification period for a lawmaker was five years — as per the amendment in Election Act 2017 — or a lifetime ban under the aforementioned article which deals with the criteria to contest elections.

CJP Isa said that the solution to this matter is present in Islam.

"The Holy Quran mentions that the status of humans is very high," the top judge said, referring to a verse from Surah Sajda which explains that human beings are not bad but their deeds are.

"Disqualifying anyone [for life] is against Islam," he added.

The top judge said that Article 62(1)(F) calls human beings bad but lifetime disqualification closes the door to repentance. He said that a person can be forgiven if he repents.

"How can the court close the door to repentance if the God didn't," CJP Isa remarked.

Earlier, the chief justice said that lifetime disqualification under Article 62(1)(F) was determined according to one's own perception and not the Constitution.

He 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.

During the hearing, Bhandari tried to convince the court to uphold its 2018 ruling in Samiullah Baloch case that the disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) was supposed to be “permanent”, and find a middle way to address the matter.

Meanwhile, Faisal Siddiqui maintained that the top court had defined the period of disqualification but the mechanism to define this period was not right.

The point was raised whether the Samiullah Baloch verdict — which has attained its finality as it had never been challenged before — can be nullified by hearing the matter in form of petitions or not.

He also contended that parliament cannot avert the apex court's verdict through plain legislation.

After hearing the arguments, the court adjourned the hearing till 9am tomorrow (Friday).

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.

Earlier, during a 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.