Chief Justice Saqib Nisar on Wednesday told the counsel representing Jahangir Tareen that land ─ whether owned or leased ─ has to be declared in the election forms.
The chief justice was presiding over a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab, which was hearing a petition filed by PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi.
The petition seeks the disqualification of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and the party's secretary general Jahangir Tareen over non-disclosure of assets, existence of offshore companies as well as the PTI being a foreign-aided party.
The debate in the court remained focused on the 18,566 acres of land which, according to Tareen's lawyer in a previous hearing, was leased by his client in 2010. Tareen had earned around Rs1.6 billion agricultural income from the said land.
Delivering his arguments, Advocate Sikander Mohmand said that Tareen had submitted his tax returns along with his nomination papers, adding that the land owned by Tareen was declared on the election forms. However, he said, the election forms do not contain a column for leased land.
Advocate Mohmand admitted before the court that Tareen had not mentioned in the election forms the 18,566 acres of leased land. He maintained, however, that no misinformation was given in the papers.
The chief justice then told the lawyer that the definition of landholding encompasses both owned and leased land.
In response, the lawyer conceded that according to that definition of landholding, his client was obligated to declare his leased land in the forms.
"Will Jahangir Tareen be disqualified for not knowing the definition of landholding?" the lawyer asked.
Justice Bandial told the lawyer that the petition against his client alleges that Tareen did not declare the leased land and points out discrepancies in his income.
The lawyer said that the leased land had been declared on the tax returns which were submitted along with the nomination papers. "We are not concerned about tax," the chief justice said. "We are looking to see if income was declared."
The hearing was adjourned until Thursday.
During yesterday's hearing, Advocate Mohmand had cited a 2013 judgement of the Lahore High Court which came on an election dispute. The court, however, held that even after the enforcement of the Punjab Agriculture Income Tax Act, 1997, no institutional framework was in place even in 2013 as contemplated by the act for collecting, determining, assessment and retaining agriculture income tax etc.
The judgement also held that entries or columns in the nomination forms pertaining to the disclosure of agriculture income tax were ambiguous and, therefore, the benefit of doubt should go in favour of the contesting candidates.