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Supreme Court irked at attorney general’s no-show in Article 62 case hearing

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar expressed displeasure at the absence of Attorney General (AG) Ashtar Ausaf Ali, who had been summoned to appear today in the disqualification duration case hearing.
A five-member larger bench is hearing several petitions to determine the time-period a lawmaker would remain disqualified after being de-seated in violation of Article 62(1)(f) and other election laws.
As the hearing went under way, the chief justice inquired into the whereabouts of the AG, to which the additional attorney general (AAG) said the AG is in Lahore and will submit a response in writing.
The chief justice expressed displeasure at the AG’s conduct and wondered how he could travel to Lahore without the court’s permission.
The AAG informed the bench that the AG is also travelling abroad tomorrow. The apex court then fined the AG Rs10,000.
Pleading to take back the fine, the AAG assured the bench that the AG will appear in court at 4:30pm, to which the chief justice agreed and stated that it is an important case.
Earlier, when the AAG said that the AG is in Lahore to attend Asma Jahangir’s funeral, the chief justice remarked that it is an extremely sad development. However, he added that the work does not stop with someone’s passing.
At the last hearing on Thursday, Chief Justice Nisar acknowledged the ambiguity of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.
During the hearing, noted lawyer and human rights advocate, Asma Jahangir, who passed away this Sunday, had appeared before the bench and represented Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf’s disqualified lawmaker Rai Hasan Nawaz.
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.
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 (today), 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.
‘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.