The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday stopped the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from holding by-polls in NA-95 in Mianwali, which fell vacant after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's disqualification in the Toshakhana reference.
Justice Aamer Farooq presided over a petition filed by the PTI chief against the electoral watchdog's disqualification verdict, wherein Barrister Ali Zafar appeared before the court on behalf of Imran.
During the proceedings, the PTI lawyer requested the court to suspend the decision of Imran Khan's disqualification.
Read 'Shameful': PTI reacts to Imran's disqualification in Toshakhana reference
However, Justice Farooq remarked that we are not suspending the decision of the ECP, adding that "we are only stopping by-elections from being held".
Advocate Zafar maintained that the ECP overstepped its authority by declaring disqualification and said that that the former premier was de-seated and disqualified as a Member of the National Assembly.
"The ECP has to give its findings on the reference sent by the Speaker," he said.
“Did this reference come from the speaker?” questioned Justice Farooq.
To which the barrister replied, “Yes, this reference was sent by the Speaker on which the disqualification was pronounced."
The counsel then told the court that "every MNA is bound to submit details of his assets by June 30. Details of all assets, including property and jewelry, have to be submitted and if something has been sold, the proceeds have to be disclosed."
"If an assembly member does not provide these details, his membership is suspended. If the member does not submit the returns within 120 days or gives false information, the member is guilty of corrupt practice," he added.
The barrister furthered that the law punishes false statements and misrepresentation with imprisonment for up to three years along with a fine but there is no penalty of disqualification.
He also said that according to the law the trial of an offense of misdeclaration should be in the sessions court which can decide on the matter. "The ECP will only play the role of a complainant in this case," he added.
“After being convicted, the ECP can then impose a sentence of disqualification up to five years," he said, adding that currently, there "is no justification" for Imran's disqualification as it would be possible only after a trial.
After hearing the arguments the court stated, “We are not suspending the decision of the ECP, we are stopping the by-election."
Also Road Imran disqualified
Subsequently, the IHC issued notices to the parties, including the ECP, and adjourned further hearing of the case till November 10.
It also stopped the release of the election schedule in Mianwali and made a copy of the certified decision of the ECP a part of the court record.
The ECP on October 21 disqualified PTI chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan under Article 63(1)(p) as it announced its verdict in the Toshakhana (gift depository) reference.
The ECP verdict sparked protests in various cities.
A four-member bench of the ECP declared Imran's National Assembly seat vacant as it unanimously decided that he had misled officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as the prime minister.