Supreme Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Thursday said that a vote cast by a member of parliament during no-confidence proceedings against the prime minister should be counted, adding that failure to do so would be “contemptuous”.
The chief justice made these comments during the hearing of the presidential reference seeking the Supreme Court’s opinion on Article 63-A of the constitution. A five-member bench, consisting of Justice Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail heard the petition.
Previously in the hearing, Justice Mandokhail inquired if a member of National Assembly’s vote could be counted in the proceedings that were held before his de-seating, observing that the 18th amendment did not mention not counting a vote.
In response, the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan said that assembly members were bound to follow their party’s direction. In response, the chief justice stated that the “essence of Article 63-A cannot be ignored”.
However, Justice Akhtar said that Article 63-A was put in place to curb party defections. He said that Article 63-A could be interpreted in a way that the dissidents’ votes should not be counted.
Justice Akhtar further said the constitution empowered the parliamentary party, not the party’s leader.
Moreover, Justice Alam said that nobody could be forced to cast their vote.
The attorney general said that clarification of Article 63-A(4) was the real problem. “Anyone who violates the Constitution by defection cannot be lauded. Article 62(1)(f) states that an MNA should be honest and righteous. Should defecting from the party be rewarded? Can those who are dishonest be considered righteous?” he asked.
Justice Mandokhail replied that every lawmaker had been granted the right to vote in accordance with Article 95, which dealt with the process of bringing a no-confidence motion against the prime minister.
He said that “if vote can be cast, it can also be counted”, and asked the AGP why the government was looking for the court’s opinion if it already knew the answer. “If you agree with this point, then withdraw this reference,” he added.