Persons convicted of offences and sentenced to more than nine months from 2002 upward are disqualified for life from contesting the Papua New Guinea national elections.
This is the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court consisting of five senior judges in a special Supreme Court reference.
The judges made the decision when interpreting various questions of law in a reference filed by the Attorney General Pila Niningi under s.19(1) of the Constitution on the question of whether those convicted from an offence are eligible to contest elections.
The Attorney General through the Office of the Solicitor General referred various questions of law and Constitutional interpretation and application seeking the court’s opinion on the meaning and effect of s.103(3)(e), which was inserted in the Constitution in 2002 by Constitutional Amendment No 24-Electroal Reforms.
Section 103(3)(e) states that – A person is not qualified to be, or to remain, a member of the Parliament if…he has been convicted under any law of an indictable offence committed after the coming into operation of the Constitutional Amendment No.24-Electoral Reforms.
The Supreme Court in its decision Tuesday, held that s.103(3)(e) of the Constitution operates to permanently disqualify from membership of the Parliament, a person who has been convicted of an indictable offence committed after the date of the commencement of Constitutional Amendment No 24-Electroal Reforms, irrespective of the length of their sentence and whether they have completed their sentence.
This is subject to some exceptions in s.103 (6) if they were granted a free pardon or their conviction was quashed, a lifetime disqualification.
The court also held that the Constitutional Amendment No 24-Electroal Reforms, commenced operation on June 25, 2002.
That means a person convicted of an indictable offence that was committed after that date, is caught by s.103(3)(e) of the Constitution and is not qualified to be or remain a member of Parliament and is not an eligible candidate.
The court also ruled that a nomination to be a candidate by such person must be rejected by the Electoral Commission.
“If the nomination is accepted, it is open to be set aside by the National or the Supreme Court as being unlawful.
“If their nomination is not set aside and such a person is a candidate in the election and they are elected, their election is open to be declared null and void via an election petition challenging their election under the Organic Law on National and Local-level Government Elections,” Acting Chief Justice Les Gavara-Nanu, presiding as the Chairman of the five-men Supreme Court bench, said when reading out the summary of the 23 page judgment.
These where the findings of the Supreme Court.
This means the Electoral Commission would now have to screen candidates contesting the current National General Election in the country to verify their legal status as to whether they are eligible to contest this election.
This law will also apply to any elections into the future.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS