Article 62(1)(f) ambiguous, SC observes in disqualification duration case

Supreme Court Chief Justice Saqib Nisar acknowledged the ambiguity of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution on Thursday as a five-member larger bench resumed hearing several lawmakers’ pleas to set a time-period of disqualification under the specific clause.
Noted lawyer and human rights advocate, Asma Jahangir, appeared before the bench and represented Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf’s disqualified lawmaker Rai Hasan Nawaz.
Asma argued that for voters, the questions of eligibility and qualification do not matter, asking further who will define complex terms such as the ‘ideology of Pakistan’.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial responded that the question of ideology is not before the bench today.
When Asma claimed that Parliament is not a free and independent body, the chief justice disagreed, observing that this notion is incorrect. She added that Parliament should decide political matters and not any other institution.
Asma also pleaded that Articles 62 and 63 are joined and should be considered one.
The chief justice then observed how an ambiguous article can be defined, if one considers Article 62(1)(f) unclear. Later, the chief justice accepted that the specific clause is ambiguous, and remarked that “it will be a difficult task to define it”.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan wondered during the hearing how a dishonest person can become honest after some time, adding that the standard of ‘ideal people’ should be high. To this, Asma responded that such ‘high-standard’ people can be brought from outside Pakistan as they would not be found in the country.
Justice Sajjad Ali Shah remarked that elected representatives and the common man should be of different standards.
Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that the duration of disqualification should remain until the declaration [election nomination papers] remains.
Asma also argued before the bench that the maximum period of disqualification should be five years according to Article 62.
Chief Justice Nisar remarked that it is possible they decide minimum and maximum sentences, adding that in such an instance the court would decide the sentence case-to-case.
The hearing was then adjourned until Monday, with the chief justice observing that they will not hear the petitioners’ counsels anymore.
The bench also summoned the attorney general at the next hearing to present his arguments after which the decision is likely to be reserved.
During Wednesday’s hearing of the case, one of the petitioners’ counsel, Babar Awan, argued that the disqualification should be for life whereas Barrister Ali Zafar, appointed amicus curiae by the court, argued that there is no difference in the implementation of articles 62 and 63.
Moreover, the chief justice observed that it is not the court’s prerogative to set a time period on its own.
There should be one standard as Article 63(1)(g) has a minimum five-year punishment, he had observed.
‘Sadiq and Ameen’
Article 62(1)(f) reads: “A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) unless-…he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law.”
On December 15, last year, the Supreme Court had disqualified Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Jahangir Tareen for failing to declare an offshore company and a foreign property in his election nomination papers.
Similarly, then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified on July 28, 2017 for concealing in his nomination papers the receivable income from his son’s company in UAE.