Election tribunal vested with suo motu powers, says Supreme Court

Counts truthful declaration of assets as benchmark to review a legislator’s integrity

Hasnaat Malik December 28, 2016
CJP Anwar Zaheer Jamali. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The top court has declared that an election tribunal is vested with suo motu powers to scrutinise the false or incorrect statements made by a winning candidate in respect of his own assets and liabilities and those of his spouse or his dependents.

“Honesty, integrity, probity and bona fide dealings of a [winning] candidate are matters of public interest because these standards of rectitude and propriety are made the touchstones in the constitutional qualifications of legislators laid down in Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution,” said Supreme Court three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

PML-N deals another blow to PTI

In its written judgment regarding disqualification of a PTI MNA Rai Hassan Nawaz, the bench said an honest and truthful declaration of assets by a winning candidate in his nomination papers furnishes a benchmark for reviewing his integrity as an elected legislator.

Authoring the 16-page judgment, a member of the bench Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the power conferred on the election tribunal under section 76A of the Representatives of Peoples Act 1976 (Ropa) is exercisable on its own motion on the basis of material brought to its knowledge about incorrect statements made by a winning candidate.

“The election tribunal is therefore vested with a suo motu power to scrutinise, inter alia, false or incorrect statements made by a returned candidate in respect of his own assets and liabilities and those of  his  spouse or  his  dependents,” the judgment said.

It said ‘these attributes’ dispense with any locus standi requirement for the informant, excludes any constraint of a prescribed limitation period and empowers the election tribunal to adopt a summary procedure initiated from a show cause notice.

PTI legislator disqualified for inaccurate asset declaration

“Section 76A ibid does not envisage opposing parties in its proceedings which are therefore not adversarial in nature. It is also clear that to obtain its satisfaction an election tribunal can summon requisite evidence on its own motion,” the order said.

It said there was a public interest object behind the statutory prescription for obtaining the said statements and declaration about assets. “It is to ensure integrity and probity of contesting candidates and therefore all legislators. The said purpose and object comes across,” it added.

The court held that the object of Section-76A was clearly  meant  to promote public interest by ensuring that elected public representatives have untainted  financial  credentials  of  integrity, probity and good faith.

“The election tribunal can summon evidence on a matter in issue to the point of its satisfaction as to whether the allegation under scrutiny is justified or not. In this background, the power vested by Section-76A ibid in an election tribunal is therefore inquisitorial rather than adversarial in nature.”

PML-N to move parliament against PTI charities

The court observed that the statement of assets and  liabilities along with other financial disclosures contemplated by Section 12(2) of Ropa provide the Election Commission  of  Pakistan (ECP) and the general public with  a picture of both his wealth and income of parliamentarian.

“Such disclosures are crucial for demonstrating the legitimacy and bona fides of the accrual and the accumulation of economic resources by such a candidate. In other words, the said disclosures show the returns received from his economic activities and can indicate if these activities may be tainted with illegality, corruption or misuse of office and authority,” it said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2016.


Parvez | 7 years ago | Reply We hear a lot of talk........but ground reality shows a very different picture.
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