The Supreme Court Bar has submitted a written draft on the Presidential reference presented before the Court, seeking its legal interpretation of Article 63A and the right of individuals to vote against the party line in the vote of no-confidence.
According to local media, the Supreme Court Bar on Thursday observed that the right to vote is an individual’s democratic right and does not necessarily have to be in line with the party’s recommendations. It further added that the article could not be interpreted in a way so as to allow preemptive action to be taken against the members suspected of defecting. The draft referred to article 95, under which it stated that an individual had the right to participate and vote against the Prime Minister in the proceedings of a vote of no-confidence. It added that the right did not belong to any political party but the individual members of the National Assembly.
“The removal of the Prime Minister from office, pursuant to Article 95 of the Constitution, is in pursuance of the Constitutional core value of ensuring that the Federal Government is truly representative of the wishes and desires of the electorate i.e. the citizens, acting through their elected representatives, as set out in the Objectives Resolution read with Article 2A of the Constitution,” read the draft. The Supreme Court Bar said that the only consequence under which any member could be stripped of his right to vote is that “the seat of a defecting member of National Assembly may become vacant, subject to confirmation by the Election Commission of Pakistan and the outcome of an appeal filed before this Honourable Court.”
The Supreme Court took up the presidential reference earlier on Monday and declared that a larger bench would hear the case. The bench, which previously consisted of only two members, now consists of CJP Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel.
The reference submitted by Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan on March 21, seeks the Supreme Court’s opinion on Article 63A. The reference presents two interpretations of the article and requests the Court for its advice on which should be followed. The reference also asks the Supreme Court to offer its own understanding and present recommendations to prevent defection, horse-trading, and floor crossing.
According to the first interpretation, “khiyanat (dishonesty) by way of defections warrants no pre-emptive action save de-seating the member as per the prescribed procedure with no further restriction or curbs from seeking election afresh.”
Whereas the second interpretation “visualises this provision as prophylactic, enshrining the constitutional goal of purifying the democratic process, inter alia, by rooting out the mischief of defection by creating deterrence, inter alia, by neutralising the effects of vitiated vote followed by lifelong disqualification for the member found involved in such constitutionally prohibited and morally reprehensible conduct.” The reference also seeks answers on the time period of the disqualification.
The Supreme Court has directed legal representatives of all political parties to present a concise statement on the presidential reference.