Dual Citizenship and Disqualification for Contesting Local Government Elections

Dual Citizenship and Disqualification for Contesting Local Government Elections Case Laws Civil Law Constitutional Law Disqualification Disqualification - Import of other Laws Dual Citizenship Election Knowledge - Civil Law Knowledge - Constitutional Law Litigation & Arbitration Local Government Solutions - Civil Law Solutions - Constitutional Law Supreme Court Mr. Justice Mushir Alam in his judgment has decided the issue regarding dual citizenship and disqualification for contesting local government elections in Civil Petition No. 3181 of 2015.

1. The petitioner has impugned the judgment of Lahore High Court, Multan Bench, Multan, dated 21.10.2015, passed in Writ Petition No.15261 of 2015, whereby his candidature as Chairman for Union Council No.58, Tehsil Chichawatni, District Sahiwal, which was accepted by the Returning Officer on 30.09.2015 and maintained by the Election Appellate Authority, Chichawatni vide order dated 10.10.2015 was set naught.

2. Challenge to the candidature of the petitioner by the respondent was that he is disqualified to be elected as Member of Local Government as he stands disqualified from being a candidate for election to any office of a Local Government for a period of four years from the date of declaration on account of his holding citizenship of a foreign State within the contemplation of clause (a) of sub-section 2 of Section 27 of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 (hereinafter to be referred as ‘the Act, 2013’). The objections were neither accepted by the Returning Officer nor entertained by the Election Appellate Authority as noted above. Acceptance of his nomination papers was challenged through Writ Petition and learned Judge in Chambers in the High Court in consideration of the fact that the petitioner was disqualified to be elected or chosen to be a Member of Majlise-Shoora (Parliament) in terms of Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 (to be referred as ‘the Constitution’) which is in para-materia to Clause (a) of sub-section (2) of Section 27 of the Act, 2013 and was declared as such by this Court in para 53 of the judgment reported as Mahmood Akhtar Naqvi v. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2012 Supreme Court 1089), which reads as under:

“As regards Mr. Zahid Iqbal, MNA, vide order dated 18.3.2012 learned ASC appearing for Mr. Zahid Iqbal, MNA was directed to file evidence/documents/certificate issued by the competent authority in terms of British Nationality Act, 1981 to the effect that he is not a citizen of UK but he failed to do so till date despite giving time, thus we have no option but to believe that Mr. Zahid Iqbal, MNA, is holding citizenship of United Kingdom, having Passport No.300997046 of Britain.”

3. The learned Judge in the High Court, seized of the matter, declared him to be disqualified in terms of para 11 of the impugned judgment, which reads as follows:

“The perusal of all the judgments referred above leaves no ambiguity that the disqualification adjudged by the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan by way of judgment dated 20th of September, 2012 attained finality. In such a case clause (b) of sub-section 3 of Section 27 of “The Act, 2013” will come into play with full force in the
way of respondent No.3 as he was disqualified on account of holding dual citizenship on 20th of September, 2012 and at the time of submission of nomination papers, the requisite period of four years has not expired.” Hence, this petition for leave to appeal.

4. Mr. Salman Akram Raja, learned ASC for the petitioner has contended that the petitioner admittedly earned disqualification when he contested and elected as Member, National Assembly of Pakistan in the General Elections, 2008 for holding dual citizenship of both Pakistan and the United Kingdom, which later on pursuant to the judgment of this Court, referred to above, he had renounced and is no more a UK citizen by virtue of certificate dated 04.10.2012 issued by the U.K Border Agency and since then he is holding undiluted and exclusive citizenship of Pakistan. It was urged that the petitioner put forth his candidature to contest election for NA.162-III, Sahiwal which challenge was not overturned by the Returning Officer and so also by the Election Tribunal, then comprised of the Judges of the High Court, which is also reported as Rizwan Zouq v. Returning Officer NA-16, SWL-III, Sahiwal (2013 CLC 271), however, his disqualification was sustained by the Lahore High Court, Lahore through judgment dated 07.05.2013 solely on the ground that since he was convicted by the Court of Sessions which conviction was still intact by that point in time. It is stated that the bar of conviction was also removed when he earned acquittal in Criminal Appeal No.210 of 2013 by the Lahore High Court, Multan Bench, vide judgment dated 26.12.2013. It is further stated that the petitioner is qualified in terms of the criteria laid down in Section 27 of the Act, 2013 and no other disqualification is attracted or could be imported from any other law to discredit his candidature, therefore, assumption of the learned Bench that disqualification in terms of Clause (b) of sub-section 3 of Section 27 of the Act, 2013 would come into play is not sustainable.

5. Learned counsel for the contesting respondent heavily relied on clause (b) of sub-section 3 of Section 27 of the Act, 2013 and strenuously argued that once a person has been disqualified by this Court in the case of Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi (ibid) such disqualification will continue to operate for a period of four years within the contemplation of above referred provision of Section 27 of the Act, 2013. When learned counsel was specifically asked to point out the disqualifications within the meaning of the provision of law relied upon by him, it was strenuously urged that since the petitioner had made a false declaration in the earlier elections, he is not sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and ameen within the meaning of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and is therefore not eligible to contest the election. It was further urged that since he was convicted by the trial Court for filing a false declaration, acquittal earned by him on technical ground will not rescue him from disqualification. To a specific question, it was candidly conceded that no appeal against such acquittal was filed.

6. Mr. Razzaq A. Mirza, learned Additional Advocate General, Punjab, does not support the impugned judgment. According to him, disqualification if at all available in terms of Section 27 of the Act, 2013 would discredit the candidature of the petitioner and will not attract disqualification for any other office including if disqualification prescribed under Article 63 of the Constitution from being elected as Member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).

7. Mr. Salman Akram Raja, learned ASC for the petitioner exercising his right of rebuttal has contended that disqualification being imported under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution cannot be imported and read as a disqualification under Section 27 of the Act, 2013 as there is no legislation by reference to import the qualification and or disqualification prescribed under the Constitution and or Representation of People Act, 1976 in contravention to the Act, 2013 and that import of such disqualification has been introduced under the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013 which is not the case in the instant matter.

8. We have heard the arguments and perused the record. Qualification and disqualification for a candidate and an elected Member to hold an elected office of a Local Government is provided under Section 27 of the Act, 2013, relevant provisions whereof read as under:

Further information regarding dual citizenship and disqualification for contesting local government elections can be solicited from AUJ LAWYERS. Feel free to contact us in case you need any clarification and/or require legal assistance regarding similar matters.