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SC returns PTI’s ‘frivolous’ petition

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakis­tan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) long-awaited petition, asking for the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and members of his family for their alleged involvement in the Panamagate scandal, met the same fate as the recently returned petition filed by the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI).
The Supreme Court office on Tuesday handed the petition back to the party’s Advocate-on-Record Chaud­hry Akhtar Ali, a day after it was filed by senior counsel Naeem Bokhari. The objections raised by the court office were identical to the ones highlighted when the JI petition was returned, i.e. the petition, prima facie (on the face of it), appeared to be frivolous.
The petition, which was filed in the name of PTI chairman Imran Khan, sought the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
“That this petition prima facie appears to be a frivolous petition within the contemplation of Order XVII Rule 5 of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980,” explained the order issued by the registrar’s office when the petition was returned.
Under the Rule 5 of Order XVII, the registrar has the authority to refuse to receive a petition on the grounds that it has not been filed in accordance with the rules, or is frivolous, or contains scandalous matter.
Under the same rules, the petitioner has the right to move an appeal within a fortnight of the petition’s return, which would then be heard by a judge of the apex court in his chambers.
“All these questions ought to have been decided by the court and not the registrar’s office,” senior PTI leader Ishaq Khakwani told Dawn.
The registrar had violated the Constitution, he said, adding that the party’s legal team was carefully analysing the registrar’s objections and would soon file an appeal against the order.
Mr Khakwani recalled that earlier scores of cases were entertained by the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) and such objections were never raised by the registrar’s office. “We have every reason to believe that the registrar has acted in bad faith,” he regretted.
Separately, party spokesperson Naeemul Haq announced that a legal team headed by senior counsel Hamid Khan was in the process of finalising an appeal against the registrar’s order, which would be moved soon.
On Aug 27, the court office declined to accept a petition moved by JI emir Sirajul Haq, where he had asked the Supreme Court to declare the illegal transfer of national wealth for investments in offshore companies an offence under Section 9 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).
On May 13, the Supreme Court returned a somewhat similar request from the federal government, asking the court to appoint a commission of inquiry to conduct a probe into the Panamagate affair, on the grounds that any such commission formed under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956 would result in the constitution of a toothless commission that would serve no useful purpose, except bringing a bad name to the judiciary.
The court had also declared the terms of reference — sent to it by the government under public pressure — “wide and open-ended”, saying that it might take years for such a commission to close its proceedings.
On Tuesday, the court office informed the applicants that the petitioner was directly invoking the extraordinary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution — that deals with the ‘enforcement of fundamental rights’ – which is not permissible in light of the precedent laid down in the 1998 matter of Zulfikar Mehdi vs PIA.
In that case, the apex court had interpreted the term ‘public importance’ and laid down that the expression should be viewed with reference to freedom and liberties guaranteed under the Constitution, their protection and the invasion of these rights in a manner which raises serious questions regarding their enforcement.
The issues arising in a case cannot be considered questions of public importance if a decision on those issues only affects the rights of an individual or a group of individuals, the judgement had held.
In its order, the registrar office also stated that the petitioner had approached the Supreme Court without first approaching an appropriate forum under the law, not did the petitioner provide any justification for not approaching any other forum.
Similarly, the certificate provided by the petitioner alongside the petition did not fulfil the requirements of Rule 6 of Order XXV of the Supreme Court rules.
This rule requires the applicant to state in clear terms whether the petitioner has moved the concerned high court for the same relief, and if so, what was the result.
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