ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Bandial on Friday observed that severe punishment had been sanctioned for dishonesty in the Holy Quran.
A person who breaks trust is called a traitor, and the Holy Quran mandates severe punishment for dishonesty, the CJP remarked.
He was heading the five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, which heard the presidential reference seeking the court’s opinion on Article 63-A of the Constitution and and a petition filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) against public gatherings of the opposition and the government in the Federal Capital ahead of the no-confidence motion.
The bench comprised Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel.
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan, while continuing his arguments on the second day, said a party ticket was a certificate that bore that party’s electoral symbol.
He said the members of the National Assembly (MNAs) elected on reserved seats for women and minorities did not receive votes from the people, and instead they were nominated by their parties. Some of the MNAs elected on reserved seats were also present at the Sindh House, he added.
The CJP asked whether an MNA declared that he / she would be bound by the party, and when a member could be declared a defector.
He remarked that the Constitution did not specify anywhere that MNAs were required to be loyal to their parties. Article 62(1)(F) talked about qualification, not disqualification.
The AGP said the conscience of ruling party members awoke as soon as they entered the Sindh House. He had stayed at the Sindh House as Advocate General. There was no device affixed there, which awoke the conscience of parliamentarians.
Justice Jamal Khan questioned whether a ruling party member could oppose a prime minister’s decision made against the country.
The AGP said the MNAs were not supposed to be rubber stamps in a parliamentary democracy. If they did not agree with the party’s decision, they could resign, he added. Differences with the party did not mean going against the government, he said.
He said Raza Rabbani had voted for military courts under the discipline of his party. It was certain that Raza Rabbani would not have voted for fear of disqualification, he added.
Justice Mazhar Alam Khan asked why anyone who disagreed with the party’s policy, should resign. The AGP replied that a person contesting the election on the ticket of a party, was also bound by its discipline. Justice Jamal Khan remarked that the Constitution gave everyone the right of free expression of views. Whether an MNA should be disqualified for expressing his / her views, he asked.
The AGP said the MNAs could not vote freely on just four occasions. Justice Jamal Khan asked whether the court could add a ‘full stop’ to the Constitution. The AGP said he would prove the direct connection between Articles 62 and 63. Justice Ijaz said no article of the Constitution could be read separately, and Articles 62 and 63 were read together. Horse trading had been declared a cancer in the parliamentary debate, he added.
Justice Muneeb Akhtar asked whether Article 62(1)(F) would be applied upon violation of Article 63-A, noting that Article 63-A talked about vacating a seat. Justice Mandokhail asked if any MNA could express no-confidence against the prime minister.
The AGP said there was a difference in the oath of the prime minister and an MNA. In the Sub-continent, political parties such as the Congress and Pakistan Muslim League were formed in the names of great leaders and still continued to exist.
Justice Mandokhail asked if an MNA had ever resigned after casting his / her vote (against party line). The AGP replied that it had happened in India and the Supreme Court had declared the member a defector. Nobody could be encouraged to deviate from the party discipline, he added.
Justice Mandokhel said the president could have called a meeting of the political parties having representation in the Parliament and discuss the issue with them before filing the reference.
Justice Ijaz said the president had asked for the interpretation of the Constitution and the court could not drift away from that. It was possible that the reference could be sent back, he added. The chief justice asked what was feared while drafting the Election Act 2017. Nothing except ‘de-seat’ was written. The AGP said the Parliament did not declare disqualification for life under Article 62F.
Justice Ijaz said that during the elections voters stamped on a party’s electoral symbol which meant that legislators contesting on that party’s electoral symbol were bound by its discipline.
Chief Justice Bandial said the length of disqualification in Article 63-A could be included through the legislation. Justice Muneeb said if the vote (of an MNA for the no-trust motion) was not counted, there was no point in boarding another ship. Justice Mandokhail asked whether a member had the right of expression under Article 63-A. If an MNA went against the party, he had to face consequences, he added. The AGP said under Article 63-A, no one had been disqualified so far, and that it was not necessary to prove that money had been accepted for voting against the party line.
Discussing the matter of political gatherings in the Federal Capital, the Advocate General of Islamabad said the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) wanted to block the Kashmir Highway.
Upon this, JUI-F counsel Kamran Murtaza said that they were ready to cooperate with the police. His client did not understand why the administration of Islamabad was scared, he added. To this, the CJP said democratic values should be followed and instructed the Islamabad Advocate General to cooperate with the party. The hearing was adjourned till Monday. TF REPORT