Pakistan’s Supreme Court today reserved judgement in a case related to determination of time duration for disqualification of a lawmaker under the Constitution, an issue that gained prominence after the ouster of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister. The court grappled with Article 62(1)(f) which only states that a lawmaker is disqualified under specified conditions but does not set out the duration of the disqualification. The issue came under the spotlight after Sharif was disqualified as prime minister in the Panama Papers case last year under the article but it led to the controversy due to ambiguity whether his disqualification was for life or not. The five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar heard multiple lawyers during the hearings which continued for weeks.
The bench also included Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. The bench concluded the case after hearing Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali who was this week fined Rs 20,000 for failing to appear in the case. The AG said since the duration of disqualification is not given in the Constitution, only parliament can determine the time duration. “A declaration under Article 62(1)(f) does not carry a time limit, nor does it prescribe the mechanism for revisiting such a declaration. Therefore, till such time the parliament makes such provisions, the declaration shall continue,” the AG added.
Justice Ahsan said disqualification could be for life until overturned by a competent court, while the chief justice said that disqualification should be for life if not mentioned in the law. He observed how a person could contest elections when he or she had been disqualified. Justice Saeed observed that the disqualification cannot end automatically. The Attorney General said only parliament can determine duration of the disqualification. Sharif last month stated through a written statement before the bench that disqualification under Article 62 is confined only to the election in question, and it is not perpetual. Earlier, the court clubbed 17 petitions together to determine the duration of disqualification of lawmakers.