ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on Thursday launched the main court seeking a review of its May 17 ruling on the interpretation of Article 63 (A) relating to the treatment of dissidents.
On 17 May, the SC, while concluding the presidential reference seeking an interpretation of Rule 63 (A), ruled that the votes of dissident MPs in Parliament (MPs) cast against the directives of their parliamentary party could not be counted.
The SCBA filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to withdraw its opinion on the paragraph of the verdict on the countless votes of dissidents, reconsidering the interpretation of May 17, 2022.
“The opinion of the Supreme Court on the counting of dissident votes is unconstitutional and equals interference with it,” the SCBA said in a petition.
The Bar Association has appointed the Federal Government and the Election Commission of Pakistan as defendants in the case.
The votes of dissident representatives do not count: SC
The Court, ruling on the President’s request for interpretation of Article 63 (A) of the Constitution, said that the law could not be interpreted separately.
Questions asked in the reference
- Can fugitive MPs be allowed to vote?
- Will the vote of the fugitive MPs be given equal weight?
- Can fugitive MPs be disqualified for life?
- Other measures that can be taken to combat vote buying?
In a split decision, three judges – Pakistan’s chief judge Umar Ata Bandial, Judge Ijazul Ahsan and Judge Munib Akhtar – agreed that the votes of dissident members should not be counted.
Meanwhile, Judge Jamal Mandokhail and Judge Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel disagreed with the verdict.
The former PTI-led government decided to turn to the SC to clarify Article 63 (A) because several PTI MPs had announced they would vote a no-confidence motion against then-Prime Minister Imran Khan – a violation of party policy.
Despite their decision not to join their leader, none of the PTI MNA voted no confidence in Khan, as the then-opposition already had the required 172 votes to overthrow him.
In the reference, the Government sought the opinion of the Supreme Court on two interpretations of Article 63 (A) and which should be adopted and implemented in order to achieve the constitutional objective of combating the threat of defection, purifying the electoral process and democratic accountability.
The reference states that if constitutional disapproval and the ban on defections are effectively enforced with deterrence and for the future, many such members would be disqualified for life under Article 62 (1) (f) and could never pollute democratic currents.
What is Article 63 (A)?
Article 63 (A) of the Constitution of Pakistan deals with the defection of parliamentarians.
According to the article, a Member may be disqualified on the basis of defection if he votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any instruction of the parliamentary party to which he belongs.
However, this is limited to three cases in which they must follow the instructions of the party:
- Election of the Prime Minister or Chief Minister;
- A vote of confidence or a vote of no confidence;
- Monetary law or law (amendment) to the Constitution.
According to the article, the party leader is required to give a written statement that the MNA in question has defected.
But before filing the declaration, the party leader will have to give the MNA in question an opportunity to explain the reasons for the defection.
After that, the party leader forwards the written statement to the speaker, who in turn will hand it over to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
The CEC will have 30 days to confirm the statement. Upon confirmation, the MNA in question will no longer be a member of the House and their “seat will become vacant”.