On Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Muneeb Akhtar stated that legislators are obligated to follow the policies of the political party with which they are associated.
He said this during a hearing on a presidential referral to the Supreme Court for an opinion on Article 63-A of the Constitution. The petition was heard by a five-member bench consisting of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.
Lawyers for Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, PPP, PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, as well as the advocate general for Sindh, Islamabad inspector general of police, interior secretary, and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), have all been served with notices for the hearing.
The purpose of Article 63-A, according to Justice Akhtar, was to prevent defection from party policies. “A party’s collective opinion is more important than an individual’s opinion.” “Collective opinion is critical for democracy’s stability,” he added.
According to him, one interpretation of Article 63-A is that dissidents’ votes should not be counted. The Constitution, according to Justice Akhtar, empowers the parliamentary party, not the party’s leader.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said it would be “contemptuous” not to count a vote cast during the no-trust proceedings against the prime minister. “Article 63-A laid out the procedure for a parliamentarian’s disqualification due to defection,” he noted.
During the hearing, Justice Mandokhail questioned whether the MNA’s vote could be counted in the proceedings that preceded his de-seating, pointing out that the 18th Amendment makes no mention of not counting a vote.
Members elected to the assembly, according to Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan, are bound by party discipline.
The “spirit of Article 63-A cannot be ignored,” according to the chief justice. “Filling in the blanks is not the court’s job.” “Rather than a reference, such issues should be resolved in parliament,” he said.
Justice Alam, on the other hand, stated that no one can be forced to vote. Balochistan Assembly members had brought a no-confidence resolution against their own party’s government, Justice Mandokhail recalled.
Meanwhile, the chief justice questioned how long an MNA could be disqualified for and when the process would begin. He also challenged the AGP to explain why parliament could not resolve every issue on its own.
In response, AGP Khan stated that the system could not function if each MNA acted independently. The cancellation of a party member, according to Article 63-A(4), is tantamount to disqualification, according to Justice Alam. He stated that the article in question was “very clear.”
Earlier in the hearing, the chief justice directed the provinces to submit their responses to the presidential reference, stating that it would be “easier” to proceed once the written responses were filed.
Responses are submitted by SCBA, JUI-F, and PML-N.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the JUI-F, and the PML-N had previously filed responses in the apex court. According to the SBCA, voting is an individual right of an MNA rather than a collective right of a political party under Article 95.
In its response to the presidential reference for the interpretation of Article 63A of the Pakistan Constitution, it declared the MNAs’ right to vote for the no-confidence motion against the prime minister to be an individual capacity.
Meanwhile, the JUI-F filed a response to the reference, calling Article 63A “undemocratic.” “Disqualification for voting against a party’s policy would suffocate an already shaky democracy.”