Tareen disqualification case: How MP can be disqualified for violating law in business, asks SC

ISLAMABAD: A three-member bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday resumed hearing of PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi’s petition seeking disqualification of PTI Secretary General Jehangir Tareen for alleged non-disclosure of assets and existence of offshore companies in his declarations.

The bench was headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprised Justice Umer Ata Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab as members.

The court asked if every violation of law could provide sufficient grounds to declare a lawmaker dishonest and disqualify him.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar observed that the agriculture tax paid by Jehangir Tareen was mentioned in the nomination papers and he also paid penalty for the insider trading.

“If we accept that Mr. Tareen had violated the law, then how his dishonesty would be established,” the CJP asked.

He further questioned whether any violation of law amounted to dishonesty, providing sufficient grounds for disqualification.

Mr Nafees, counsel for the petitioner Hanif Abbasi, submitted that Jehangir Tareen not only accepted insider trading but also paid a penalty to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.

For this violation, he said, Mr. Tareen could be disqualified under Article 62(1) (f) of the Constitution. He said acceptance of an omission by the respondent was enough to declare him dishonest.

He further contended that Mr. Tareen had also violated sections 15A (prohibition of insider trading) and 15B (inside information) of the Securities and Exchange Ordinance, 1969.

“Even if he had not violated these sections, he could be disqualified as an MNA for insider trading and being director of the company,” he added.

Justice Faisal Arab asked the counsel to prove Mr. Tareen’s dishonesty on the basis of insider trading. 

The counsel contended that if a person could be disqualified for showing a fake degree, then why not for insider trading.

Justice Umer Ata Bandial interrupted and said insider trading was not a declaration for disqualification. When Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar asked him to define the term “Ameen”, Azid Nafees submitted that Mr. Tareen had appeared dishonest in the company's shares saying a public representative could not be dishonest.  The respondent was not even eligible for the post of director of his company for his crime but he became a public representative, he added.

The counsel for the petitioner further submitted that Jehangir Tareen had presented mis-declaration in the nomination papers of 2013 and hence he could be disqualified.

He said as per law, Jehangir Tareen was required to pay tax on income generated from the leased land but he did not and he even did not show it in the nomination papers. 

At this, the chief justice observed that according to Mr. Tareen, there was no column in the form for lease and he accepted the agriculture income.

The counsel for Hanif Abbasi, however, said if Mr. Tareen was so simple, then he should not have disclosed agriculture income to the FBR. He said Tareen gave different returns to both the federal and provincial governments establishing his mala fide intention.

Later, the court adjourned the hearing until today (Wednesday).

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court was informed on Tuesday that non-declaration of assets by the PTI Chairman Imran Khan was 100 percent on a par with the basis on which Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was de-seated in the Panama Papers case.

Pointing out some discrepancies in various pleadings, Muhammad Akram Sheikh informed the court that the respondent, Imran Khan, had submitted in his pleadings that in a case involving disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) the court was concerned only with issues of righteousness and honesty and his declarations could not be termed acts of dishonesty.

Sheikh submitted that this argument was untenable in view of the final judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case. “In this case, dishonesty was attributed solely on the ground of non-declaration of assets (receivables) and not for any other act of dishonesty," Sheikh contended.

Similarly, Imran had contended that dishonesty would be attracted for purposes of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution if it could be proved that he had received corruption money.

Sheikh, however, submitted that this was not an acceptable plea in view of the Panama Gate judgment. In that case, he contended, the former prime minister was de-seated only for not declaring his entitlement to salary from his son's company. He said there was no assertion whatsoever that receipt of salary meant receipt of corrupt money.

"The mere fact of non-declaration of an asset was held to be an evidence of dishonesty to justify removal from the National Assembly pursuant to Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution," he submitted. Imran Khan had also pleaded that failure to make a correct declaration before the ECP was due to bona fide mistakes, lack of proper advice and he had nothing to gain by his non-declaration. 

Responding to the PTI chief’s plea, Akram Sheikh contended that this defence was not available in the light of five-member final judgment given in the Panama Papers case in which the then prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was disqualified. In that case, he was disqualified only because of his failure to make the required declaration, he said.