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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has observed that states not governed by honest and upright people are bound to suffer and lag behind developed nations of the world.

“Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the state structure must be built upon honesty of purpose by honest people,” he said in his 80-page judgement about the disqualification of former secretary general of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Jahangir Khan Tareen as a legislator under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

Mr Tareen lost his National Assembly seat from Lodhran for his failure to declare the 12-acre Hyde House in the United Kingdom in his nomination papers and for making an untrue statement before the apex court that he had no beneficial interest in the property.

The three-judge Supreme Court bench, however, cleared PTI chief Imran Khan of all charges.

In the judgement, Chief Justice Nisar wrote that people should determine whether or not the people in power were honest in general terms and specifically as the chosen representatives of the people... because honesty was one of the greatest virtues in a man.

The judgement dealt at length with the sanctity of parliament and said it should not be allowed to be compromised lightly because it was the supreme lawmaking organ of the state.

“It is the supreme body to lay down the state policies; besides, the executive body of the state is also derived from this organ. Though the validity of legislative enactments of parliament and the executive actions of the administration are subject to judicial review of the superior courts, this power should be exercised within the limits provided by the Constitution, as interpreted by the courts and various principles of law enunciated in this behalf,” the verdict said.

“The quo warranto remedy,” the judgement said, “should not be allowed to be a tool in the hands of those who approach the court with mala fide intentions and either have their own personal grudges and scores to settle with the holder of the public office or are a proxy for someone else who has a similar object or motive.

“This remedy surely cannot be allowed to serve as a sword hanging over the heads of the parliamentarians or members of the provincial assemblies who are the chosen representatives of the people under the mandate of the Constitution (Article 2A) wherein it is stated that state should exercise its power and authority through chosen representatives of the people.”

“Thus relief sought through petitions of quo warranto,” the verdict said, “should not be allowed to be resorted to for demeaning, intimidating and causing undue harassment to the parliamentarians.”

It should not be allowed to be used as a pressure tactic for purposes of restraining them from performing their functions and discharging their duties in accordance with the Constitution and the law, said the judgement.

“This remedy of quo warranto,” said the verdict, “cannot be equated with the challenge to the holder of any other public office, where the appointment was assailed as not having been made according to the law regarding his qualifications on the basis of political considerations or nepotism.”

In his judgement, the chief justice said the courts should not lose sight of the fact that parliamentarians were the elected representatives of the people and had come to the parliament through a democratic process.

“Democracy is one of the basic features of the Constitution and the courts, being the guardians and custodians of the Constitution, are obliged to protect and safeguard the same,” the chief justice wrote.

“This remedy should not be allowed as a matter of course, more so when the candidature of a candidate is duly scrutinised at the time of the scrutiny of his/her nomination papers to ascertain whether he is qualified or disqualified in terms of the Constitution and the law,” the judgement said.

Moreover the election of the parliamentarian could only be challenged if he lacked qualification or disqualification before the election tribunal in accordance with the procedure provided by the Representation of People Act, 1976.

“We are clear in our mind that quo warranto writ can only be issued by the court against the parliamentarians in exceptional cases.”

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2017