LAHORE -  A three-member bench of the Lahore High Court giving a split decision here yesterday allowed PML-N candidate Begum Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif to contest by-election in NA-120 Lahore.

The bench headed by Justice Aminuddin, with two-one dismissed the petitions filed earlier by PTI, PPP, MML, PAT and others against the candidature of Kalsoom Nawaz to contest by-election in NA-120.

The bench headed by Justice Aminuddin Khan and comprising Justice Ibadur Rehamn Lodhi and Justice Shahid Jamil announced the majority verdict. Justice Lodhi dissented with the other two judges.

PPP’s Faisal Mir, PAT’s Ishtiaq Chaudhry and Milli Muslim League’s Sheikh Yaqoob had challenged decision of returning officer and election tribunal regarding acceptance of nomination papers of Kalsoom Nawaz. PPP’s Faisal Mir and PAT’s counsel Ishtiaq Ch have decided to challenge the decision of the Lahore High Court before the Supreme Court. Kalsoom at this stage, is legally clear to contest by-election.

The present bench was the third full bench of the highest court of the province, reconstituted after one of the members in the previous two had refused to hear the case for personal reasons.  On August 30, these appeals came up for hearing before a full bench headed by Justice Muhammad Farrukh Irfan Khan. Justice Farrukh due to personal reasons declined hearing of the case, and returned it to chief justice to constitute a new bench.

The chief justice formed another bench comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza and Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi but Justice Shams refused its hearing for personal reasons. Now, for the third time, the bench had been constituted to hear the case.

MML’s counsel Raja Abdul Rehman contended that Kalsoom did not mention details of her assets and shares in different companies. “If somebody attaches some annexure to his or her petition it does not mean that he had fulfilled the requirement as annexure can’t be a substitute to required information,” MML’s counsel argued. He said Kalsoom did the same as she annexed some documents with her nomination papers but the required information about her assets and shares as well as information about her income was missing.

At this, Justice Shahid Jamil Khan asked him whether they filed objection to it before the returning officer. On it, the petitioner’s counsel replied that yes they had filed objection but the respondent lady did not mention complete details. On it, Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi remarked, “Perhaps they themselves (Begum Kalsoom) don’t know about the details.” MML’s counsel asked the court to set aside decision of the RO and election tribunal. The other petitioners’ counsel said that RO had rejected their petitions against the candidature of Kalsoom, however, he did not give any reason in his decision. At least, the learned RO should have mentioned the reasons why these petitions were rejected.

Deputy Attorney General Ahmad Nasr appeared before the bench on behalf of the bench. However, the petitioners’ counsel raised objection that federation was not a party to the petitions and nor the same was required in it. On it, Justice Lodhi asked Azhar Siddique that who would represent the FIA and other federal departments; surely it would be any law officer when the state is party to the case. The law officer in his arguments opposed the maintainability of the petitions.

The law officer said that decisions and election tribunal were correct. He cited the law that a SC judgment in Javed Hashmi case in 1989 had provided an exception in that case which could be made basis to determine maintainability of the petitions. He questioned the maintainability of the petitions saying that the high court could not interfere into the jurisdiction of the election tribunal. Every dispute should go to the election tribunal, the law officer said. On it, Justice Lodhi remarked that a meaningful scrutiny should have been held at the lower level.  The law officer pleaded that let the people decide as no substantive information was provided by the petitioners that Kalsoom lacked required eligibility. However, when the court asked the law officer why the RO did not give any reason in his decision, he replied that there has to be a reason. But the law officer said that it was not necessary for the RO to give reason when he accepted nomination papers of Kalsoom. Advocate Amjad Pervez, the counsel of Kalsoom Nawaz, argued that ROPA has not defined scrutiny while purpose of scrutiny was cleared. He cited 2016-SCMR, Sheikh Muhammad Akram Vs Abdul Ghafoor and others. The RO was given adequate time but the petitioners could not give any solid information whether Kalsoom lacked any information. Every citizen under Articles 2 and 17 of the Constitution had the right to contest election, he argued. He said the technicalities are to be avoided. However, Advocate Azhar Siddique opposed his arguments by presenting judgments of the SC but could not submit his reply when one of the judges asked him that whether election dispute was defined in these judgments.

 

 

After hearing the detailed judgments, the bench headed by Justice Aminuddin Khan rejected the petitions challenging candidature of Kalsoom, and upheld the decision of the RO and election tribunal regarding acceptance of nomination papers of PML-N’s candidate for upcoming by-election of NA-120.

Additional Attorney General Naseer Bhutta, Senator Asif Kirmani and others were present in the court.

 

 

 

FIDA HUSSNAIN

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 14-Sep-2017 here.