ISLAMABAD: Not happy with the recent passing of the Election Bill, 2017, allowing an otherwise disqualified office-bearer of a political party to hold the party’s presidency, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has decided to oppose the law but after considering it threadbare in its next meeting that has been called for Oct 7 in Peshawar.

“By then the president must have assented the bill after the National Assembly where the PML-N dominates will have adopted the same,” said Rasheed A. Razvi, the president of SCBA.

On Sept 22, the Senate had passed the election bill after rejecting a key PPP-backed amendment to retain a controversial clause resurrected by retired Gen Pervez Musharraf through the Political Parties Order, 2002.

The Election Bill, 2017, was passed with a majority vote by the Senate but since the bill, already passed by the National Assembly, had been adopted with amendments by the upper house, it will go to the NA again and, in all probability, the lower house of parliament will approve it.

While talking to the reporters here at the Supreme Court, the SCBA president deplored that the bill was an attempt to nullify the provisions of the Constitution. “You cannot annul a constitutional provision through a subordinate legislation,” Mr Razvi emphasised.

Bill is an attempt to nullify the provisions of the Constitution: Razvi

When asked to explain, he said PML-N head Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

If Mr Sharif was allowed to continue holding his reign as president of the ruling PML-N, it will be in direct conflict of the five-judge Supreme Court judgement which had disqualified him, he said.

Not only Mr Sharif, the same bill would also give advantage to every political party head who might be rendered disqualified in future, he said also dropping hints that many political heads might go home in the coming days after being rendered ineligible for politics.

It was likely, Mr Razvi said, the SCBA might consider challenging the law before the Supreme Court by invoking its inherent power under Article 184(3) of the Constitution but after the body decides in favour of approaching the courts.

However, the SCBA president was of the view that disqualification under Article 62 (1)(f) was not for life and to substantiate, he said, a five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Shafiur Rehman in 1994 had held that determination against some individual that he was not sadiq and ameen (honest and truthful) never ran in perpetuity.

Therefore, the 2013 Abdul Ghafoor Lehri case in which former Chief Justice Iftik­har Mohammad Chaudhry had held that disqualification under Article 62 was of permanent nature does not hold the field since it was rendered by a three-judge Supreme Court bench.

Authored by Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the judgement had stated that Article 62 does not provide any period, therefore, a person, who was declared disqualified under the said article, was not eligible to contest the elections of parliament forever.

The judiciary could not fill the vacuum when the law itself had not prescribed any punishment, he said, adding that when a convict sentenced on murder charges could enter politics after completing his jail term then why a person disqualified on corruption or any other offence could be sent home for life.

When asked why conflicting judgements by the Supreme Court were coming, the SCBA president observed that because the members of the legal fraternity, including the judges, had stopped doing research and studying.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2017

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