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Suspension of sentence does not wash away conviction, rules SC

Updated July 23, 2019

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It is the conviction and sentencing that are the determining factor rather than the actual time spent behind bars. — AFP/File
It is the conviction and sentencing that are the determining factor rather than the actual time spent behind bars. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has held that suspension of a sentence will not wash away the conviction of an individual because the culpability is complete as soon as the person charged is found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

“It is the conviction of the accused which is relevant in the context of Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution (disqualification) and Section 27 (2)(i) of the Punjab Local Government Act (PLGA) 2013,” observed Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan in an eight-page verdict announced on Monday.

Justice Ahsan was a member of a three-judge Supreme Court bench, which was headed by former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, and later dismissed an appeal of Nasir Mehmood against the Oct 27, 2015 order of the Lahore High Court.

Umar Sajid, the respondent in the case, had approached the high court against the rejection of his objections before the Returning Officer as well as the order of the appellate authority upholding the rejection.

Mr Sajid had filed objections against the joint candidacy for the election of chairman and vice chairman of the Union Council No 3, Municipal Corporation, Gujrat. The main ground of his objection was that the appellant in the case (Nasir Mehmood) was convicted of criminal offences in an earlier round of litigation and such litigation, emanating from a declaration of dishonesty, was issued by the high court and upheld by the apex court.

In his verdict, Justice Ahsan observed that the suspension of sentence would have no consequence on the conviction of the appellants for the purpose of being qualified to contest either local bodies’ elections or elections for legislative assemblies.

He explained that unless the conviction is specifically suspended by the appellate court by assigning cogent reasons, the appeal of the appellant was ultimately allowed and his conviction as well as sentence were set aside by the appellate court, the conviction of the appellant would continue to hold the field and the disqualification incurred by him, by reasons of this conviction, will remain intact.

Justice Ahsan observed that the issue in the case at hand was not whether the conviction of the appellant was for a crime involving moral turpitude or whether the court of competent jurisdiction had rendered the sentence.

Rather the pivotal issue was whether the convictions awarded to Nasir Mehmood would be taken as a whole in a cumulative manner, the effect whereof would be a conviction, followed by a sentence on four counts for an aggregate period of six years in terms of the provisions of PLGA.

Justice Ahsan observed that it was the conviction and sentencing that was the determining factor rather than the actual time spent behind bars.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2019