Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar observed on Friday the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to interpret election law on the basis of Islamic injunction.
During the hearing pertaining to determining whether disqualification of lawmakers under Article 62(1)(f) is for life or time specific, the counsel for civil society, Azhar Siddiqui claimed that the election law paved that way for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to become party head violates Islamic teachings.
However, Justice Nisar remarked that if the counsel wanted to examine Section 203 of Election law with touchstone of religious provision, he should approach Federal Shariah Court.
“It is an exclusive domain of the FSC,” he said. “We have no jurisdiction.”
The court asked Siddiqui to outline provisions in the Constitution that have been violated through the election law. The bench also hinted that the lawyer may have to pay a heavy cost for filing of a frivolous petition.
Responding to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawyer Advocate Gohar Nawaz Sindhu request to disqualify lawmakers who had voted in favour of this law, the CJP remarked that the bench will slap heavy fine if the petition does not hold up. The court noted that some parameters had to be set in order to filter filing of frivolous petition.
The Chief Justice observed that the court was not limiting its review of the Elections Act 2017 to Nawaz Sharif alone, and had to look at the bigger picture to ascertain its implications.
The counsel for JDP, Sheikh Ahsanuddin, claimed that the amended Elections Act was only passed to pave the way for Nawaz to retake his position as PML-N chief, even though the Constitution does not allow a disqualified person to head a political party.
Advocate Bhutta also adopted the arguments presented by MNA Sheikh Rashid’s lawyer, Barrister Farogh Naseem, and PPP’s counsel, Latif Khosa, in previous hearings. He added that there was no way a person disqualified by the apex court could become a political party chief. To this, the CJP reminded him that the new law passed by Parliament could allow any convicted person to assume the position of political party head.
On Feb 6, Naseem had similarly argued that the Elections Act 2017 was passed only 17 days after Nawaz’s disqualification, which indicated its mala fide intent. When the CJP asked how the appointment of a disqualified person as party chief contradicts the Constitution, he had said that according to Article 63-A of the Constitution, important powers were vested in the office of party chief, including the disqualification of a legislator belonging to their party.
“The party chief can [thus] also influence legislation and the election of a prime minister [by exercising that power],” Naseem had argued. During Friday’s hearing, Justice Nisar said that the apex court can only nullify a law if it contradicts the Constitution. He also pointed out that a representative of the Election Commission of Pakistan was in the Standing Committee when the Elections Act 2017 was being drafted.
Dasti’s lawyer, Azhar Siddiq, argued that any legislation passed by the National Assembly cannot undo Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution. He further stressed that a political party chief “can influence millions of voters.”