LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti has constituted a full bench to decide two identical petitions concerning PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s disqualification by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Justice Bhatti will himself head the three-judge bench with Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh and Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi as its members. The full bench will hear the pleas on the availability of Justice Sethi at the principal seat in Lahore. Justice Sethi is presently performing judicial work at Multan seat.

On Nov 11, Justice Sethi had proposed constitution of a larger bench on the petitions.

The first petition filed by Advocate Mohammad Afaq said the ECP had disqualified the former prime minister and de-seated him from Mianwali’s NA-95 constituency on charges of corrupt practices. Therefore, as per the Representation of Peoples Act 1976 and the Political Parties Order 2002, the office-bearers of a political party must meet the standards provided in Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

He argued that Mr Khan was violating the laws by continuing to head the PTI, a party registered with the ECP, and that a person disqualified under Article 63 was not entitled to become or stay an office-bearer of a political party.

The petitioner asked the court to order the ECP to remove Mr Khan as head of the PTI and direct the party to nominate a new chief.

In the second petition, which is against Mr Khan’s disqualification, Jabir Abbas Khan, a voter from the NA-95 constituency, challenged the legitimacy of Section 137(4) of the Elections Act 2017 invoked by the ECP to de-seat the former premier.

The petitioner, through Advocate Azhar Siddique, argued that the PTI chairman had been disqualified under sections 137(4), 167 and 173 of the Elections Act despite the fact that these sections did not mention the word ‘disqualification’. Besides, he argued, under section 137 of the act, the prosecution could only be initiated within 120 days of the filing of false asset statements. In Mr Khan’s case, the last such statement was filed on Dec 31 last year.

The petitioner said the ECP ‘illegally and unlawfully’ disqualified Mr Khan under Article 63(1p) of the Constitution, along with sections 137 and 173 of the Elections Act, because section 137 specified only a three-year punishment or fine or both, and not disqualification.

He asked the court to declare Section 137(4) of the Elections Act ultra vires to the Constitution and restrain the ECP from taking any action until the petition is being heard.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2022

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