Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Thursday observed that not counting a vote that has been cast during the no-confidence vote against Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan would be “contemptuous”.
CJP Bandial further questioned that for how long a dissident Member of the National Assembly (MNA) could be disqualified.
He made the remarks during the hearing of a presidential reference seeking the Supreme Court’s opinion on Article 63-A of the Constitution.
Earlier, during the hearing, Justice Mandokhail questioned whether the MNA’s vote could be counted in the proceedings conducted before he was de-seated, observing there was no mention of not counting a vote in the 18th Amendment.
Justice Akhtar observed that the purpose of Article 63-A was to stop defection from party policies. “The party’s collective opinion is above an individual opinion. The collective opinion is important for the stability of democracy.” He said one interpretation of Article 63-A was that the vote of dissidents should not be counted.
Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan argued that the real issue was about clarifying Article 63-A(4). “Someone who violates the Constitution by defection cannot be praised. We cannot read what’s not written in the Constitution. 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 MNA had the right to vote in accordance with Article 95, which deals with the procedure to bring in a no-confidence motion against the prime minister.
“If vote can be cast, it can also be counted,” he observed, asking the AGP why the government was seeking the court’s opinion if it already had the answer. “If you agree with this point, then withdraw this reference,” he added.
Earlier, SCBA submitted its response in the apex court, stating that voting is an individual right of an MNA instead of a political party’s collective right under Article 95.
It declared the MNAs’ right to vote for the no-confidence motion against the prime minister to be an individual capacity in its response to the presidential reference for the interpretation on Article 63A of the Constitution Pakistan.