The Supreme Court, in a major
decision, on Tuesday issued the verdict that the dissident members of a
parliamentary party cannot cast votes against their party’s directives.

The court, issuing its verdict on the presidential reference
seeking the interpretation of Article 63(A) of the constitution, said that the
article concerned cannot be interpreted alone.

Earlier today, the Supreme Court wrapped up
the hearing of reference filed by President Arif Alvi.

The reference was filed in the apex court in March after the
Opposition parties submitted a no-trust motion against the then prime minister
Imran Khan.

n the majority verdict of 3:2, CJP 
Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar agreed that dissident
members’ votes should not be counted, while Justice Jamal Mandokhail and
Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel disagreed with the verdict.

In response to the first and second questions raised in the
reference, the top court’s majority judgement said the votes of the defected
parliamentarians would not be counted.

In response to the third question regarding the disqualification
of members, the top court rejected the PTI’s plea, saving the lawmakers from
permanently being barred from the Parliament.

In its opinion on the fourth question, the three judges said that
it was the right time for the Parliament to legislate on lifetime
disqualification and make laws in relation to curbing horse-trading.

The PTI government had approached the SC in a bid to stop its
dissenting lawmakers from voting against Imran Khan and had sought a lifetime
disqualification for those who attempted to deviate from the party’s direction.

Today’s hearing

At the outset of today’s hearing, the PML-N counsel Makhdoom Ali
Khan had submitted more arguments before the bench.

Newly-appointed Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali argued that the
court is reviewing the reference in an advisory authority, the president may
ask for an opinion on a legal question or a matter of public interest, but the
president has not sent a reference on such issues in the past. We also need to
see the background of this matter, he said.

Ashtar Ausaf said that it is necessary to see whether Article 63-A
is a complete code and whether there is a need to add anything in the said
provision of the Constitution. “It is also necessary to see whether the vote
will be counted by deviating from the party policy.”

At this, Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the president does not
need to seek a legal opinion from the attorney general for sending a
presidential reference. “The president can send a reference on a legal question
under Article 186,” the judge remarked.

The court asked the attorney general if he was distancing himself
from the reference. On this, the AGP said, “I have not received any
instructions from the government, I am assisting the court in the case.”

The court asked, “Are you saying the reference is
inadmissible? Are you saying that the reference should be returned without a reply?”

Justice Muneeb said that the former AGP was of the view that the
reference was admissible and now as attorney general you can give your
position.

In response to the judge’s query, Ashtar Ausaf said that the
president should have filed the reference after seeking the opinion of the
legal experts on the matter. “If there was any contradiction in the opinion of
the legal experts then the president could have sent the reference [for
clarity].”

During the hearing, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said that the
court is hearing the case for more than a month. “Do not insist on the
technical issues. The matter has gone beyond admissibility now.” 

 

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2022-05-17

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