Supreme Court Justice Munib Akhtar, who is on the five-member bench hearing a presidential reference that seeks the apex court’s interpretation of Article 63-A of the constitution, on Friday observed that the “honorable way out for dissident lawmakers was to resign and go home”.
He was responding to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan’s argument that disloyalty to the party was different from disloyalty to the state. During a hearing previously this week, Justice Akhtar had equated defection to cancer in a human body.
The five-member bench of the SC hearing the presidential reference, which is related to disqualification of defecting lawmakers, is led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and consists of Justice Akhtar, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail.
During the hearing, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s counsel Ali Zafar continued his arguments, and said that Article 63-A was meant to end horse-trading.
“Violation of 63-A is a violation of the constitution,” he said, maintaining that votes cast by dissenting lawmakers could not be counted according to the concerned article.
“There are court decisions on the role and importance of political parties. Independents and ticket holders of political parties become members [of the National Assembly] and Article 63-A is related to a member of the latter,” he said.
Justice Ahsan questioned Zafar if he meant that the votes would not be counted under Article 63-A. The counsel replied that he was saying the same in light of judicial interpretation. The judge noted that counting votes and dissent were two separate matters.
Justice Mandokhail observed that according to Article 63-A, a dissident lawmaker could cast his vote but he would subsequently lose his seat.
CJ Umar Ata Bandial stated that the country must be taken towards a “mature democracy”. He stated that “we have to take the country towards mature democracy and for that, it is necessary for the legislators to have a fruitful discussion”.
He remarked that the dissidents’ votes should not be counted to ensure national interest and to end the plague of shifting loyalties.