The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed a lawyer representing ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif a week's time to prepare his arguments for a case concerning the interpretation of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution — the same article under which Sharif was disqualified last year.
The case ─ focused on ascertaining the period of disqualification of a member of parliament under the constitutional article ─ is being heard by a five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.
Advocate Azam Tarar, the lawyer representing Sharif, told the bench during Wednesday's hearing that he was asked to appear in court only yesterday evening. He asked for three days to prepare his arguments.
Accepting his request, the court gave the lawyer until next week.
Appearing before the court, human rights lawyer and activist Asma Jahangir said, "There are some people who are affected by article 62(1)(f); ordinary people who want to be part of this case as well." In response, the chief justice told her, "They can jointly appoint a lawyer to represent them."
During the hearing, the chief justice wondered whether a person disqualified by the court can contest by-polls, given that the elections are held within three months of the disqualification.
"Disqualification lasts for five years," Tariq Mahmood, the counsel representing Samina Khawar Hayat, who was disqualified in a fake degree case in 2013, told the bench. Mahmood also recalled that the court had disqualified Pervez Musharraf for life in 2013.
'Lifelong disqualification is a violation of human rights'
Munir Malik, serving as amicus curiae (friend of the court), began his arguments, stating that Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution should be read in a manner that foundational rights are not affected.
"The Constitution is based on fundamental rights," he said, adding that lifelong disqualification is a violation of basic human rights.
The clauses under Article 63 are distributed into two parts ─ the first part relating to continued mistakes and the second to past mistakes in conduct, Malik explained.
He noted that after the 18th Amendment, changes were made to the clauses under Article 63.
"Before the 18th amendment, past mistakes in conduct would result in disqualification for life," he said.
Malik said that there are no differences between Article 62 and Article 63; adding that in the latter, under the 18 Amendment, the period of disqualification was changed to last five years.
"When the court disqualifies a person under Article 62, it is a declaration by the court, not a sentence," Justice Sheikh Azmat observed. "What will the effect of Article 62(1)(f) be in such a case?"
"No trial can be conducted on writ of quo warranto," Malik told the judge. "We will have to see for how long curbs to contest elections apply on disqualified individuals."
Appeals against disqualification
Taking up 17 appeals against the disqualification of lawmakers, the SC had issued notices to Nawaz and former Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) secretary general Jahangir Tareen to appear in person or through their counsel during the hearing of appeals involving the interpretation of Article 62(1)(f) — the provision under which both had been disqualified.
While Tareen was present in court for the hearing on Tuesday, the PML-N head was not, as he had appeared in an accountability court hearing references against him.
During yesterday's hearing, the court had contemplated the article's interpretation and implementation, and wondered whether sadiq (truthful) and ameen (righteous) should be considered as one trait or two separate ones.
The SC on Tuesday had also made a public announcement inviting lawmakers disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) to become a party to the case by appearing in court for the hearings.
Political and legal experts believe that the outcome of the case will have a great impact on the country’s future politics as it will decide the political future and fate of a number of politicians, including Sharif and Tareen.
Article 62(1)(f) says: "A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) unless [...] he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law."
The article, however, does not specify any period after which a person, who is declared disqualified under Article 62, can be eligible to contest elections of the parliament.