Rejection of Nomination Papers Over Alleged Default


a statue of a lady justice holding a scale
a statue of a lady justice holding a scale

In a notable ruling, the Lahore High Court’s Appellate Tribunal overturned the Returning Officer's decision to reject Raja Ahmed Aziz Bhatti's nomination papers for the PP-09 Rawalpindi-III constituency. The judgment highlights the nuanced interpretation of "default" and its implications on electoral eligibility.

Key Areas:

Initial Rejection: The Returning Officer rejected Bhatti's nomination papers on December 30, 2023, based on a report from the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) indicating that Bhatti was a defaulter owing Rs. 56,584,620.

Legal Framework: Article 63(1)(o) of the Constitution disqualifies a candidate from being elected if they, their spouse, or dependents have defaulted on government dues or utility expenses over ten thousand rupees for more than six months. The term "default" was central to this case and was examined through various legal precedents.

Case Law Reference: The court referenced "Irfan Gul Magsi v. Haji Abdul Khaliq Soomro" (1999 PTD 1302), which defines default as a deliberate failure to meet obligations. It further cited "Muhammad Jamshed v. Election Appellate Tribunal" (2018 CLC 1330), emphasizing that the determination of default is the sole prerogative of a court of competent jurisdiction, not a Returning Officer during summary proceedings.

Pending Litigation: Bhatti's counsel highlighted that the default claim by SNGPL was under litigation, with leave to contest granted and the matter still pending in court. This indicated that Bhatti's alleged default had not been conclusively determined.

Supreme Court Precedent: The court also referred to "Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi v. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif" (PLD 2017 SC 265), which underscores that disqualification under Article 63(1)(o) requires a final determination of liability by a competent forum.

Conclusion: Judge Mirza Viqas Rauf concluded that Bhatti was not disqualified under Article 63(1)(o) as his alleged default had not been judicially determined. The court ruled that the Returning Officer had erroneously rejected Bhatti's nomination papers. Consequently, the appeal was allowed, and Bhatti's nomination papers were accepted.

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