ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Thursday restored National Assembly membership of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and sent a request to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to decide the scope and extent of suo moto jurisdiction.
Ghulam Sarwar Khan, the PTI leader, had defeated Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan from NA-53 Rawalpindi on May 11 general elections, but his membership was suspended by a three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in August 2013 over allegedly holding a fake degree. The interim order was passed following the hearings of petitions pertaining to fake degrees of some parliamentarians after the Higher Education Commission (HEC) submitted a report on the case.
The interim order of the Court was, however, was conditional to the Lahore High Court judgment on the verification of his academic qualification. The LHC in December 2013 had declared the academic degree of Ghulam Sarwar legal. The LHC order said: "Ghulam Sarwar's degree is legal and genuine as well as pronounced him eligible for the National Assembly post."
A three-member bench headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, and comprising Justice Saqib Nisar and Justice Dost Muhammad, heard the election matter of the PTI leader.
Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, who represented Ghulam Sarwar, told the court that his client had been contesting elections since 1980 and was a Punjab minister and the federal minister, but as a result of suo moto proceedings his membership was suspended. He requested the bench that as the LHC has passed judgment in favour of his client, therefore, his membership be restored.
Justice Saqib inquired from the learned counsel in what jurisdiction the Supreme Court had passed the suspension order. He replied it was suo moto jurisdiction, adding unless there was adjudication in the court of competent jurisdiction the apex court should not pass order in such way.
Justice Jamali said but that the order was conditional to the LHC order on his client's degree issue. Justice Saqib said if the suspension order could be passed on the suo moto then it could be recalled as well.
PML-N Senator Rafiq Rajwana, appearing on behalf of Ghulam Qamar, opposed Hafiz Pirzada's plea to restore PTI leader's NA membership. The court inquired from him who is his client. The counsel said he is a voter of that constituency (NA-53). Justice Saqib said that constituency is left unrepresented for the last so many months and he as parliament must realise it.
Justice Jamali said if they would encourage this kind of trend then people would file petitions against the winning candidate during his tenure. He said his application was neither leave to appeal against the High Court order nor under co-warranto. The court asked him under what law the Court could bypass the legal process?
Justice Saqib remarked, "No, the time has ended to mess up the things." He said if the Court withdraws the order in suo moto then it would be appropriate. The law should follow its own course. Justice Jamali agreeing with him said the order could be vacated and they could send request to the chief justice of Pakistan to constitute a larger bench to decide the extent and scope of suo moto jurisdiction. "Wider or restrict the scope under which compulsion the court crosses the barriers." He said in one of the missing person cases they had also said that this court has its limitation.
The SC office was directed to place the file before the Chief Justice for constituting a larger bench on suo moto jurisdiction.