Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Supreme Court hears Presidential Reference over Article 63-A

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ISLAMABAD: A five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, resumed hearing of the presidential reference seeking the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 63-A of the Constitution, ARY News reported on Wednesday.

PML-Q lawyer Azhar Siddique resuming his arguments said that the objective of the Article 63-A meant to prevent defection of parliament members. The constitution was amended to halt the members’ defection.

He gave reference of the PTI members who defected on April 16 to vote Hamza Shehbaz against the party’s policy. “A reference has been pending in the election commission against defecting members,” Azhar Siddique said.

“Defecting members matter has been pending in the election commission, no opinion can be given over the disqualification reference,” Chief Justice Bandial said.

“My case is not disqualification reference,” PML-Q counsel said. “My case is robbery of the party mandate in daylight,” he said. “The election commission has to look into the matter,” Justice Mazhar Alam remarked. ” The appeal against the election commission’s decision will come before the supreme court,” he added.

“Some of your party members are here, some there, while the PML-Q head is silent,” Justice Jamal Mandokhel remarked. ” There is a party of Balochistan, which have one half here, one there, the heads of these parties are silent,” Justice Mandokhel further said.

“Disqualification is the word used for defecting members in India,” counsel said. “What is the period of disqualification of a member in Indian constitution’s 10th schedule,” Justice Jamal questioned. “Why they said that politicians are thieves, why they issue such statements till inquiry of the matter,” Justice Mandokhel asked.

“The resolution for no-confidence motion was passed on March 28, while the motion was scheduled to be debated on March 31,” chief justice asked.

“The court has to protect the constitution thus hearing the reference pertaining to interpretation of Article 63-A. If the Article 63-A have any relevance for the defecting members, the clause was introduced with a constitutional amendment,” the CJP said.

Chief Justice said that lifetime disqualification of a member is a strict punishment. “There are conditions for enforcement of Article 62 (i) (F),” “Whether Article 62 (i) (F) can be read with Article 63-A,” the chief justice questioned.

“Defection is a stigma, a stable government is needed for the national development. The musical chair continuing from 1970, should now come to an end,” CJP said.

“In my view the law is ineffective, horse trading still happens,” Azhar Siddique argued. “No one can be allowed to take a wrong step, the court can not change the law,” chief justice observed.

“A punishment for defection is to de-seat the member,” Justice Ahsan said. “What could be another punishment for it,” he asked. “Article 63-A doesn’t suggest the period of disqualification. The question is, whether we add any other Article with Article 63-A,” he asked. “Being removed from the seat is a constitutional result,” he added.

“What will be procedure of the disqualification of a defector, will a trial conducted for ineligibility,” Justice Mandokhel asked. “In case of bribe allegations, what will be the evidence,” he asked.

“Defection is itself a constitutional offence, de-seating is not punishment for defecting members,” Justice Ahsan remarked. “These things will come to an end when elections will be held according to the law,” with this Azhar Siddique concluded his arguments.

Supreme Court Bar’s Counsel Mansoor Awan, in his arguments said that the defecting member’s vote will be counted. “What will be disqualification period of a defecting member,” Justice Mandokhel asked.

“Article 63-A removes a defecting member from his seat. Lawmakers didn’t fix disqualification period of a defecting member,” Mansoor Awan argued.

Raza Rabbani objected over military courts, still he voted for military courts despite his objection,” Justice Munib Akhtar said. “Despite the voice of conscience he voted on the party line,” Justice Akhtar observed.

“A Balochistan Assembly member was de-seated over defection from the party’s policy, he is presently a senator,” Justice Mandokhel said.

“If there is any document of defection by a member under the conscience in the history,” Justice Ahsan asked. “Do you think defection is OK, constitution sees it wrongful,” he further observed.

“A member if defects on the voice of conscience, de-seating is okay for his punishment, but a member who gets money for defection, should be punished strictly,” Mansoor Awan argued.

Justice Munib Akhtar said that Article 63-A can be read with Articel 17 (ii), which covers the rights of political parties.

Chief Justice welcomed Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali’s presence in court. “Will you assist the court in this matter,” Justice Bandial asked him. “If the court deems it fit, I will assist the court,” Ashtar Ausaf said. CJP asked the AGP to assist the court on coming Monday.

“Whether we can interpret 63-A, which brings political and legal stability,” chief justice questioned. “Can we empower the party head to act against defecting members if he wants,” CJP questioned.

“Our political system have fluctuations, pressures and instability,” chief justice said. “The court debate will determine the direction,” Ashtar Ausaf said.

“There is a point that the defecting member’s vote should not be counted,” Justice Munib Akhtar said.

Supreme Court Bar’s Mansoor Awan concluded his arguments and the court adjourned further hearing of the case until Monday.

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