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SC judge ponders why voting against PM not banned if defections such a big crime

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, who is on the five-member Supreme Court bench hearing a presidential reference that seeks interpretation of Article 63-A, pondered why voting [on the no-confidence motion] against the prime minister had not been banned if defection was “such a big crime”.

In a hearing on Tuesday, Justice Mandokhail inquired if the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) could throw out a reference against defecting lawmakers.

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The five-member bench hearing the presidential reference is led by Supreme Court Chief Justice (CJ) Umar Ata Bandial and comprises Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Mandokhail.

During the hearing today, Pakistan People’s Party’s lawyer Farooq H. Naek contended that the 17th constitutional amendment granted the prime minister and party chiefs immense powers. “Even the Supreme Court cannot take action against the prime minister,” he stated.

Chief Justice Bandial observed that action against dissenting lawmakers would not be possible within the National Assembly’s tenure, if a no-trust motion was moved against the premier in the fourth year of his tenure, and a reference against defecting lawmakers was concurrently filed with the ECP, and it took the ECP a year to announce the decision, as by then the assembly would have completed its term.

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Justice Mandokhail interrupted that the apex court was also bound to decide the case within a specific period of time.

The chief justice stated that Article 63-A’s goal was to disqualify a defecting lawmaker. Naek replied that the article also did not mean the “hanging” of a defected member.

“No argument has been presented on lifetime disqualification of defectors,” the PPP’s counsel said.

Justice Ahsan remarked that the goal of Article 63-A was to stop defection from the party. “However, it remains to be seen whether the punishment for switching parties is strong enough to shake the conscience of a lawmaker concerned,” he added.

To this, Naek argued that the defecting lawmaker would be disqualified until the completion of the term of the government.

The hearing was adjourned till Wednesday.

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