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Disparity in punishments: Chief Justice Isa questions lawmakers’ disqualification

Islamabad, 4 January, 2024 (GNP): The Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, presiding over a case concerning the disqualification of lawmakers, raised critical questions regarding the disparity in punishments stipulated for identical offenses under Article 62(1)(f) and Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution.

During the proceedings, the Chief Justice compared the provisions and noted that Article 62(1)(f) mandated a lifetime ban on lawmakers, while Article 63(1)(g) prescribed a five-year disqualification for similar offenses related to acts against the ideology, sovereignty, integrity, or security of Pakistan.

These observations were made as a seven-member bench convened to determine whether the disqualification duration should be a lifetime ban or restricted to five years. T

he Elections Act was amended to reduce the disqualification period to five years following a Supreme Court ruling in 2018 that initially introduced a lifelong ban for lawmakers violating Article 62(1)(f).

The Supreme Court appointed senior counsels Faisal Siddiqui, Uzair Karamat Bhandari, and legal adviser Reema Omar as amici to provide assistance regarding the disqualification issue.

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Chief Justice Isa questioned the origins of the provisions related to qualifications and disqualifications for parliamentarians, highlighting their introduction through the Revival of the Constitution Order (RCO) under Presidential Order 14 of 1985 during the regime of late military dictator Ziaul Haq.

The bench displayed interest in arguments supporting the 2018 Supreme Court verdict in the Samiullah Baloch case, which had permanently disqualified politicians under Article 62(1)(f) from holding parliamentary positions.

The Chief Justice expressed concerns about the introduction of such provisions by individuals who might have violated their oath and questioned whether Ziaul Haq, as a dictator, could establish such conditions.

He further emphasized the need to focus on the constitutionality and legality of the matter without bias toward any political party.

The proceedings also witnessed discussions on the interpretation of Article 62 and Article 63, with emphasis placed on the differences between the two and the complexities in assessing an individual’s character.