ISLAMABAD, July 11: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the condition of minimum educational qualification of BA or its equivalent for the members of parliament and provincial assemblies.
The special bench, headed by Chief Justice Sheikh Riaz Ahmad, after hearing arguments from the parties for two-and-a-half days, dismissed all the five petitions.
The petitioners had challenged the insertion of Article 8 A in the Election Order, 2002, requiring the members of the National Assembly, Senate and provincial assemblies to possess the minimum of BA or its equivalent degree.
In its one-line order, the five-member bench held: “Reasons to be recorded later, the petitions are dismissed”.
Announcing the order, the CJ said that the decision of the Apex Court was unanimous.
Originally, two petitions were filed, one each by the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam Group) and the Awami National Party. Three other petitions by Khudai Noor of the Jamhoori Watan Party, Chaudhry Mohammad Ilyas Jat, and the Pakistan Awami Party, also came up during the course of the hearing.
The petitioners had contended that the condition was violative of their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 17 of the Constitution.
A former speaker of the National Assembly, Gohar Ayub, and a former MNA from Chakwal, Majeed Malik, attended the proceedings regularly as both would now be disqualified from contesting elections.
Syed Iftikhar Hussain Gillani, representing the PML(Q), was the lead counsel for the petitioners, as most of the lawyers following him adopted his arguments.
The impugned legislation was defended by Attorney-General Makhdoom Ali Khan, and Punjab Advocate-General Maqbool Ellahi Malik, NWFP AG Barrister Jehanzeb; Akhtar Zaman, Additional AG of Balochistan, and Sarwar Khan, Additional AG of Sindh.
Mr Gillani had contended that the military regime was attempting to create an “aristocratic class” of legislators by introducing the graduation condition.
The SC bench consisted of Chief Justice Sheikh Riaz Ahmad, Justice Munir A. Sheikh, Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and Justice Qazi Mohammad Farooq.
Mr Gillani had attempted to persuade the court that graduates represented the elite class of society, whereas the non-graduates were the “disadvantaged” class and the court should help them out.
The counsel had stated that the law requiring every aspiring member of parliament to have the minimum qualification of BA or its equivalent, was beyond the legislative powers of the military regime granted to it by the Supreme Court.
Mr Gillani had contended that the intent of the government was to control parliament.
On Thursday, Mr Gillani said that according to the statistics provided in the Census Report of Pakistan, graduates constituted only 1.32 per cent of the total population and a majority of these graduates were concentrated in urban areas.
Advocate Aftab Gul, representing Mr Jat, one of the petitioners, had contended that the president’s power to amend the Constitution was limited. He had argued that the Constitution being the supreme law cannot be amended through sub-constitutional legislation.