ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday cleared Sadiq Sanjrani to continue holding the office of Senate chairman and in this capacity to serve as acting president of the country.

Justice Aamer Farooq dismissed a petition seeking Mr Sanjrani’s disqualification for being ‘under-age’.

The petitioner had challenged the eligibility of Mr Sanjrani, contending that he cannot become the acting president of Pakistan in the absence President Arif Alvi because he does not meet the requirements set by the Constitution.

According to the petitioner, the acting president must not be less than 45 years of age since the Constitution has defined the age limit for the office of the president of Pakistan. The petitioner had pointed out that Mr Sanjrani, being 40 years old, did not meet the basic requirement to hold the president’s office.

Announcing the verdict in an open court on Monday, Justice Farooq in a short order pronounced: “The petition is dismissed.”

Petitioner claims being 40 years old, the incumbent Senate chairman cannot become acting president

Deputy Attorney General Raja Khalid Mehmood Khan in his concluding arguments said that no prescribed age for the acting president is written in the Constitution. He said that the Senate chairman becomes acting president in the absence of the president.

He said the minimum age for becoming a member of the Senate is 30 years and the upper house of parliament elects the chairman from amongst its members.

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

He said the petition was filed without any just cause of action and a similar plea had already been dismissed by the Balochistan High Court.

Furthermore, the petitioner has no locus standi (right to speak) in the matter, he said.

Mr Sanjrani said: “The Constitution is paramount, and can only be amended by parliament in the manner provided therein.” He added that the petitioner challenging the spirit of the constitutional scheme is acting with mala fide intention, seeking to obtain judgement 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”.

Mr Sanjrani requested the court to dismiss the petition with cost.

The law ministry in its reply contended that the petition was not maintainable and the petitioner had no locus standi. It also said that 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 ministry said: “There is always [a] 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 [an office] 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 that qualification prescribed for the office of the president cannot be construed as the qualification for the acting president.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2019