ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition seeking disqualification of Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, in a split decision.

A three-member bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah announced the judgment, reserved by the bench around three months ago on March 20.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) member Shakeel Awan, who lost the 2013 elections at Rawalpindi’s NA-55 constituency against Rasheed, had sought lifetime disqualification for his rival for misdeclaration of assets in the nomination forms.

The 2-1 decision was read out by Justice Saeed.

The dissenting judge, Justice Isa recommended in his note formation of a bench, preferably a Full Court, citing the reason that every judge has heard election disputes thereby acquiring knowledge to help decide questions of law raised by the appeal.

Justice Saeed, however, while authoring majority opinion said he was unable to append signatures of concurrence as the minority opinion suggested that the decision of the instant appeal be deferred till the questions as raised and enumerated are adjudicated by the Full Court.

“Such exercise, if undertaken, is unlikely to be completed before the proposed general elections. Election disputes at the stage of scrutiny of the nomination papers and subsequent proceedings before the Election Tribunals, high court and top court are integral part of the election process both legally and politically.”

Justice Saeed noted that if Justice Isa’s suggestions were followed then all the election disputes, which will inevitably crop up before Returning Officers (RO), tribunals and high court and SC would also not be adjudicated upon till the decision of said appeal since the disputes more often than not revolve around the questions raised by Justice Isa.

“In such circumstances, the very validity of the proposed General Elections of 2018 would become questionable and the acceptance of its result by the participants almost impossible,” he added.

A set of allegations against Rasheed and court’s finding upon them in its judgment:

Firstly, in his plea before election tribunal and then subsequently in front of the apex court, the petitioner alleged that Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed had only declared 983 Kanals 17 Marlas in his nomination forms by hiding the fact that he actually owned 1049 Kanals and 13 Marlas in Village Raman, Tehsil Fateh Jang, District Attock.

However, the court in its judgment declared this contradiction as a ‘miscalculation’ because as per the details provided by Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed in his nomination papers at page 79 shows that he owns 1081 Kanals and 17 Marlas of land and in the grand total it has been incorrectly mentioned as 983 Kanals and 17 Marlas.

“In the circumstances, the explanation offered appears to be reasonable and logical”, the judgment maintained about Rasheed defence taken on said objection.   

Secondly, the petitioner asserts that Rasheed showed incorrect market value of his house situated at Golf City, Expressway, Bahria Town and argued that the other allottees paid a higher price for the similar properties. He also presented a witness, who was an employee of Bahria Town to substantiate his claim. However, the court in its judgment declared that the petitioner did not provide any documentary proof for the contention produced by him.

The court further objected that no document public or private has been produce as evidence to show any contemporaneous transaction of property in the vicinity while nothing from the record of the Sub-Registrar of documents, in this behalf, is available.

“No person who entered into any such transaction of sale of property in the same area entered the witness box to prove or disprove the value of such property”, the court observed in its judgment.

“In this view of the matter, it cannot be held that Respondent No.1 (Rasheed) made any misstatement regarding the value of the said property, the ownership of which has been mentioned in the nomination papers along with the consideration paid therefore,” it added.

Thirdly, the counsel for petitioner tried to dispute the income and sources thereof as mentioned by Sheikh Rasheed in his nomination papers.

However, the court while declaring this as a ‘half hatred’ effort stated that the appellant could not through evidence disprove the declaration made by Rasheed in this behalf.

“No moveable asset or bank account or source of income other than as disclosed in the nomination papers has been proved in evidence by the appellant”, court maintained while seconding the Election Tribunal decision which had declared that no material concealment or misstatement in the nomination papers has been proved against Rasheed.

 

 

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MUHAMMAD ASAD CHAUDHRY