After weeks of silence on the issue of fake degrees, the Supreme Court, which had stirred up the controversy by ordering verification of educational certificates of parliamentarians, indicated on Wednesday how it wanted politicians who had used counterfeit degrees to be treated. The court ordered that Haji Nasir Mehmood, a PML-N member of the Punjab assembly from Gujrat (PP-111) whose degree was found to be fake, should return the salary and allowances he had earned as a parliamentarian. “The burden to prove a valid, genuine and bona fide qualification lies on the appellant,” the judgment, which had been reserved earlier, said. Some observers here said the order meant that the parliamentarians accused of holding fake degrees would themselves have to prove their innocence. The court called for exemplary punishment for legislators who betrayed the trust of their voters by using fake degrees to contest election. “How a visionary leadership could emerge in the country in such circumstances?” it asked. Authored by Justice Javed Iqbal, the verdict said: “Nothing good can be expected from such fakers who not only betrayed the confidence of voters of their constituency, but cheated them in a shameless manner…. How can they watch the legitimate interest of people with a dead conscience which never pricked while defrauding the nation? They deserve exemplary punishment so that such shameful instances could not be repeated.” Dismissing Haji Nasir Mehmood’s appeal for being without merit, the court asked him to hand over the money in two weeks. “In case of failure, the money calculated will be recovered as arrears of land revenue,” the order said. Mr Mehmood had obtained the degree from the University of East in Hyderabad, Sindh. In his appeal, he claimed that the relevant record could not be produced because it had been misplaced and damaged because the university building had been inundated during a previous flood. Mr Mehmood had filed the appeal against the Feb 3 order of an election tribunal which unseated him. PML-Q’s Mian Imran Masood, who had filed an election petition under Section 52 of the Representation of Peoples Act 1976, said the degree held by Mr Mehmood was not recognised by the Higher Education Commission. Although the apex court continued hearing and reserved its judgment, it did not stay the by-election which was won by Haji Imran Zafar, a close relative of Mr Mehmood, in March this year. The court also asked the Election Commission to initiate criminal proceedings against the appellant and said that criminal waste of taxpayers’ money could not be allowed. About the validity of the degree issued by the University of East, the verdict held that it could be safely said that the degree of the university was not recognised. The university, the judgment noted, was established on July 28, 2004, but amazingly certificates relating to 2003 (spring semester) and 2003 (summer semester) were issued before the institution had come into being. “This speaks volumes about the negative approach of the university. We have no hesitation in our mind that the degree (Exh.DA) produced by the appellant with nomination papers was not recognised by the HEC and, accordingly, it cannot be equated to that of a valid degree and, therefore, he was not qualified under the law to contest the election due to lack of requisite qualification,” the judgment said.
By: Dawn News