Nomination Rejection Over Misinterpretation of Legal Standards


green palm tree during daytime
green palm tree during daytime

In a significant ruling, the Lahore High Court’s Bahawalpur Bench reversed the Returning Officer's decision to reject the nomination papers of Sajjad Ahmad for the NA-174, PP-265, and PP-266 constituencies in Rahim Yar Khan. This judgment clarifies the legal interpretation of absconding status and tax defaults in electoral contexts.

Key Areas:

Grounds for Rejection: Sajjad Ahmad’s nomination papers were initially rejected due to an FIR registered against him (FIR No. 322 of 2023) and an alleged default on Land-Based Agriculture Tax amounting to Rs. 964,500/-.

Absconding Status: The Returning Officer considered Ahmad to be a fugitive of law based on a letter from the District Police Officer, Rahim Yar Khan. However, the court found no evidence of proceedings under Section 87 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which are necessary to declare someone a proclaimed offender. The court referenced the Supreme Court ruling in "Muhammad Afzal Khan Dhandla v. Election Tribunal" (PLD 2010 SC 959), emphasizing that without a formal declaration by a court, Ahmad could not be deemed a fugitive.

Agriculture Tax Default: The Returning Officer’s conclusion on Ahmad’s tax default was based on an order from the Assistant Collector, Sadiqabad. However, the court noted that no formal notice demanding payment was on record. Additionally, Ahmad provided a certificate from the Assistant Collector stating no outstanding dues. The court cited "Abdul Sattar Bachani v. Returning Officer" (2019 MLD 541) and "Syed Shafqat Hussain Shah v. Returning Officer" (2019 YLR 643), indicating that an unsubstantiated tax demand without proper assessment does not constitute a valid ground for rejection.

Conclusion: Judge Sultan Tanvir Ahmad concluded that the rejection of Ahmad’s nomination papers was based on incorrect facts and misapplication of legal principles. The court ruled that Ahmad’s nomination papers should be accepted, thereby overturning the Returning Officer’s decision. The ruling ensures that candidates are not unfairly disqualified due to procedural errors or unverified claims.

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