ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that all the candidates contesting general elections will have to submit an affidavit along with nomination forms that would require them to disclose the information omitted in the new forms.

The top court further ruled that the contesting candidates will be bound to submit the affidavit with the required information within three days.

It also directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to prepare the contents of the affidavit and submit the same before the court.

Following the court directions, the ECP prepared an affidavit draft.

After clearance, the commission placed the affidavit on its website to facilitate the expected candidates.

It directed the Returning Officers to collect the affidavits from the candidates by June 11, failing which their nomination papers will be rejected.

Earlier in the day the Supreme Court in its interim order said, “As an interim measure, we believe that such additional information, which was required to be disclosed through the nomination papers and forms under ROPA, 1976 and now omitted through nomination papers contemplated by the Elections Act, 2017 must be disclosed by a candidate.”

The top court also observed in its 10-page order, “Such disclosure is necessary to ensure the sanctity and integrity of the General Elections, 2018, as if the instant appeals eventually fail, complications in this behalf may arise.”

During the hearing the chief justice observed that these affidavits will be for information of this court as well as general public.

He further observed that people must know whom they were voting for and what were the credentials of their representatives. “We need completely clean people [to contest] in the elections, he remarked.

Affidavit details

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh prepared a draft affidavit to be submitted by the candidates.

According to the draft, a candidate will have to undertake that no loan for an amount of two million rupees or more is obtained from any bank, financial institution, cooperative society or corporate body in candidate’s name or in the name of his/her spouse or any of the dependents, or any business concern.

They will also have to declare that “I, my spouse or any of my dependents or a business concern mainly owned by me or the aforesaid, is not in default in payment of government dues or utility charges, including telephone, electricity, gas and water charges of an amount in excess of ten thousand rupees, for over six months, at the time of filing of nomination paper.”

The affidavit draft also mentioned educational qualification, candidate’s present occupation, passport number, national tax number, if any, the income tax paid by the candidate during the last three assessment years/ financial years, total income, source of income, details of net assets of previous and current fiscal years, details in respect of travel abroad during last three years and cost incurred thereon, agricultural income tax paid during the last three years, contribution to the political party, and detail of criminal case, if any.

A candidate will also undertake that “I shall make all election expenditures out of the money deposited in the exclusive account opened for the purpose detail of which has been mentioned in the nomination form and I shall not make any transaction towards the election expenses through an account other than the above account. I have not ceased to be a citizen of Pakistan nor have I acquired or applied for the citizenship of a foreign state.”

As per the draft, the candidate will also declare that “I acknowledge that failure to give detail regarding any item in respect of Form A and Form B shall render my nomination to contest election invalid or if any information given therein and hereinabove are found incorrect at any time, my election shall stand void ab initio.”

More on court order

In the interim order, the top court clarified that “failure to file such affidavit before the Returning Officer would render the nomination papers incomplete and liable to rejection. If the affidavit or any part thereof is found false then it shall have consequences, as contemplated by the constitution and the law.

“Since the affidavit is required to be filed in pursuance of the orders of this court, therefore, if any false statement is made therein, it would also entail such penalty as is of filing a false affidavit before this Court.

“All candidates of the National and provincial assemblies shall file the said affidavit along with their nomination papers. Such candidates who have already filed their nomination papers shall file the said affidavit with the Returning Officers by or before June 11, 2018.”

The interim order came after a five-judge larger bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the appeals filed by the ECP and former National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq challenging LHC’s May 30 verdict.

The LHC in its verdict had directed the commission to ensure that all mandatory information and declarations be included in the nomination forms and rejected the nomination papers for violating articles 62 and 63 of the constitution.

On the last date of hearing before the top court at the Lahore Registry, while granting leave to appeal, operation of the LHC judgment was also suspended without hearing the opposite side.

Proceeding details

During the course of Wednesday hearing, the chief justice observed that the affidavits were for the purpose of transparency, for the information of apex court as it was custodian of the Constitution, adding the same affidavit would be used for proving perjury in case any candidate makes false statement, at any stage during his tenure.

At the outset, Advocate Shahid Hamid, counsel representing Ayaz Sadiq appeared before the bench and stated that neither his client nor the political party, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), to which his client belonged, had any objection to the disclosure of said additional information.

He said that the PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif had already come on record in this behalf. He contended that some of such information previously required in the nomination forms was not really necessary.

To this, the chief justice asked Sadiq’s counsel when there was no objection in disclosing the information then why was his client shy in disclosing information by omitting details in the new nomination forms and why the people were being kept in the dark about information regarding their candidates.

The counsel could not persuade the bench pertaining to such disclosure in any manner would prejudice any candidate.

During the course of hearing, the bench however examined each and every omitted clause of the nomination form issued under the ROPA, 1976.

The bench observed that an intra-court appeal in the LHC should have been filed against the single member judgment rather than the SC being directly approached. The question of the locus standi of the national assembly speaker also needs to be determined, the bench observed.

“With regard to the information omitted from the nomination paper and Form A & B, as issued in terms of Elections Act, 2017, when examined in juxtaposition with the requirement of the nomination form previously in vogue under the ROPA, 1976, it appears that the information, no longer required to be disclosed, prima facie, would facilitate the determination of the qualification or disqualification of a candidate and would lead to greater transparency regarding the credentials of a candidate facilitating the electorate in making a more informative choice,” the bench observed.

During the hearing, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, member of the bench, observed that there could be no negotiation on delay in upcoming elections. Endorsing the same, chief justice remarked, the top court was not going to delay the elections and it was a guarantee of this court. He further observed that by submitting affidavit there would be more clarity.

Advocate Hamid told the bench that there was no requirement for the column of agricultural tax and tax returns in the nomination form.

To this, chief justice recalled that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Jahangir Tareen’s case was totally on this point.

He further observed that he will constitute a separate bench regarding election campaign expenditures and code of conduct of the elections.

He noted that the date of scrutiny may have to be extended because of the additional affidavits but it would not delay the date of elections, which is July 25.

The ECP secretary has assured the court that the process will not in any manner upset the schedule of elections so as to delay holding of the elections on 25-7-2018, as already announced.

The top court further observed that the adjudication regarding omissions in nomination forms, when compared with such nomination forms issued in  terms of Representation of the People Act, 1976 (ROPA), required interpretation of various provisions of the Constitution including Articles 62, 63, 218 to 222.

Therefore, the top court issued notice to Attorney General for Pakistan in terms of Order XXVII-A CPC and adjourned the hearing of the case for date-in-office.