The Supreme Court on Tuesday debated the grounds for disqualification of lawmakers while deliberating what constitutes as "dishonesty", as the counsel representing PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi maintained that PTI leader Jahangir Tareen had acquired illegal income through insider trading.
A three-member bench of the apex court — headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab — was hearing a petition filed by Abbasi, which seeks the disqualification of PTI chief Imran Khan as well as Tareen over the alleged non-disclosure of assets, existence of offshore companies, as well as receiving foreign funding for the party.
During a previous hearing of the case, Tareen's lawyer had presented details of his client's 'insider trading'. He had told the court that Tareen did not inflict a loss upon anyone through his actions. The lawyer had further said that Tareen had resigned as the chief executive officer and was discharging his responsibilities as a member of the board of governors of the company whose shares were brought.
During Tuesday's hearing, Abbasi's lawyer, Azid Nafees, argued that Tareen should be disqualified as he had engaged in insider trading and acquired income through such activity.
Nafees added that Tareen had confessed his involvement in insider trading and also paid a penalty for it to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan on January 12, 2008.
"This is enough to declare [Tareen] dishonest," the lawyer said.
Advocate Nafees argued further that the PTI leader had violated Sections 15A (prohibition of insider trading) and 15B (inside information) of the Securities and Exchange Ordinance, 1969.
The prosecution told the bench that Tareen was the director of a company when he violated the laws.
"Does the violation of the law amount to dishonesty?" the chief justice asked. "Can the violation of every law be grounds for disqualification?"
"How can the violation of every law be fitted into the definition of dishonesty?"
"After all these questions, should we disqualify someone for violating the laws regarding business dealings?" he added, noting that Tareen had paid off the penalty for insider trading. "We accept that laws were violated, that mistakes were made, but where did dishonesty come [in to this argument] from?"
"Has fraud or a crime of any sort been committed?" Justice Bandial inquired. The lawyer replied that insider trading was a crime according to the law.
"You will have to prove Tareen was dishonest regarding insider trading," the judge added.
The petitioner's lawyer further maintained that the PTI leader had also provided incorrect information in his nomination papers in 2013. "For that, he can be disqualified. Under Article 62, he can be disqualified for life," the lawyer insisted.
The chief justice recalled that Tareen had not declared income earned from contracted land in the nomination papers ostensibly as there was no column in the forms to do so — an argument made by Tareen's lawyer in an earlier hearing of the case.
He said that Tareen had declared the agricultural tax he had paid in the nomination papers.
The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.