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ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday reserved decision on a petition seeking disqualification of Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

On May 15 last year, Advocate Afzal Khan Shinwari had filed the petition stating that Mr Sanjrani cannot become acting president because he did not meet the requirements set by the Constitution.

According to Article 49 of the Constitution, the Senate chairman becomes acting president in the absence of the head of state. However, Article 41 states that the individual needs to be more than 45 years of age.

The petition pointed out that Mr Sanjrani was born in 1978 and being 40 years old did not meet the basic requirement to hold the office even in acting capacity.

Mr Shinwari argued that the Senate Secretariat committed an illegality in its appointment of Mr Sanjrani as the chairman.

He alleged that the office of the president had been “illegally usurped” and pleaded that the May 14 notification issued by the Senate Secretariat be termed “unconstitutional.”

In response to the petition, Mr Sanjrani in his para-wise comments stated: “The petitioner has filed instant petition with mala fide intentions.”

It said the petition was filed without any just cause of action and the matter had already been decided in a similar petition by the Balochistan High Court which dismissed it.

Furthermore, the petitioner has no locus standi (right to speak) in this matter, it added.

Mr Sanjrani said, “the Constitution is paramount, and can only be amended by parliament in the manner provided therein. The petitioner challenging the spirit of the constitutional scheme is acting malafidely, seeking to obtain judgment which may be contrary to the said scheme.”

The written reply claimed that “the petitioner apparently seems to be habitual and trying to defame the constitutional officeholders without any just and proper cause and ground.”

It requested the court to dismiss the petition with cost.

After preliminary hearing, Justice Aamer Farooq sought reply from the Ministry of Law.

The law ministry in the written reply contended that the petition was not maintainable and the petitioner had no locus standi. It also said the IHC lacked jurisdiction as the petitioner was not an aggrieved person in terms of Article 199 of the Constitution.

Regarding the age of the Senate chairman, the law ministry said, “there is always distinction between the eligibility criteria of a person who is regularly elected or appointed to hold a public office and the criteria for a person who is required to hold temporarily in acting capacity on ex-officio basis.”

The mandate of Article 49 is to arrange for a stop-gap arrangement until the president is elected, it said, adding qualification prescribed for the office of the president cannot be construed as the qualification for the acting president.

Deputy Attorney General Raja Khalid Mehmood Khan opposed the petition and requested the court to dismiss it.

After hearing the arguments, Justice Farooq reserved the verdict.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2019