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Attorney General earns apex court ire for no-show in disqualification case

ISLAMABAD: Expressing extreme displeasure over absence of Attorney General (AG) Ashtar Ausaf Ali, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 for not turning up at court.

A five-judge larger bench, headed by the CJP, heard the petitions seeking a fixed time-period of the parliamentarians’ disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution.

At the outset of the court proceedings, Justice Nisar inquired about the whereabouts of the AG as he was summoned by the court to appear before the bench.

To which, the Additional Attorney General (AAG) informed the bench that the AG is out of city and will submit a response in writing.

The CJP then inquired as how he could go out of the city without the court’s permission, while expressing resentment over the AG’s conduct.

At which, the AAG informed the bench that the attorney general was in Lahore to attend the last rites of Asma Jahangir, besides he has to travel abroad tomorrow.

In response, the CJP remarked that the demise of noted lawyer has saddened the members of legal fraternity since it’s an extremely sad development but observed that the work shouldn’t be stopped with someone’s death.

Taking back the fine, Justice Nisar remarked that it is an important case and the AG must ensure his presence by 4:30 pm today.

The bench will resume hearing the petitions later today.

Last hearing

At the last hearing on Thursday, Justice Nisar ruled that the Supreme Court of Pakistan would determine the time-period of parliamentarians’ disqualification.

During the court proceedings, PTI’s disqualified MNA Rai Hassan Nawaz’s counsel late Asma Jahangir presented her arguments and asserted that the Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution is ambiguous as it is difficult to determine the honesty and trustworthiness of an individual.

She then said the aforementioned article also did not state as which court is to issue declaration with regard to a person’s conduct and eligibility.

“The voters do not bring the questions of eligibility and qualification before casting their votes to an individual,” she asserted.

Jahangir contended that the interpretation of ‘Pakistan’s ideology’ was a complex task with several ambiguities, besides it was the sole responsibility of the parliament to deliberate on political matters rather than any other state institution.

To which, Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the court couldn’t resolve questions merely based on assumptions.

Following the judge’s remarks, Jahangir asserted that fundamental rights to citizens are prime organ of the constitution. She then claimed that the parliament is not an independent body, the CJP disagreed and remarked that the notion was incorrect.

The CJP conceded the existence of ambiguities in Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution. “It will be a difficult task to interpret the article,” he remarked.

On which, Justice Ijazul Ahsan suggested that the standards of ‘ideal persons’ [lawmakers] should be raised, while Justice Sajjad Ali proposed different set of standards for the lawmakers and an ordinary person.

The petitioner’s counsel then argued that nobody was declared eligible and ineligible for holding a public office before 1985. “Such ‘high-standard’ persons are unavailable in the country,” she responded.

The Chief Justice then inquired whether a dishonest person could contest by-election and for how long he or she should be declared disqualified.

Jahangir responded that the disqualification sentence should be varied case to case and maximum period should be five years.

At which, the CJP ruled that it was the sole obligation of the top court to determine the duration of the disqualification period of a public representative.

The bench summoned the attorney general at next hearing to present his arguments as it will not hear the petitioners’ counsel anymore.

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