ISLAMABAD: Reacting to the recent questions raised by former prime minister Imran Khan and the severe online backlash by the PTI activists over the country's courts’ opening at midnight on April 9, Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial said that the judiciary is the defender of the Constitution and it works round the clock.
His remarks came during the hearing on the presidential reference seeking interpretation of Article 63(A) of the Constitution.
The five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel heard the reference.
Expressing his annoyance over the ongoing social media campaign, CJP Bandial warned, “No one needs to point a finger at the courts opening at midnight.”
At the outset of today’s hearing, the additional director general pleaded with the court that it was requested to adjourn the proceedings till the appointment of a new Attorney General for Pakistan.
At this, CJP Umer Ata Bandial remarked that the attorney general had completed his arguments, adding that if the new attorney general has to give arguments, he can do at the end. He said the political parties were also waiting for their turn to give arguments in the case. PTI has also filed a petition, remarked the judge.
Meanwhile, Babar Awan, PTI’s counsel, requested the court to issue notices to the parties in the case.
“Present your case first. Notices will be issued (later),” the CJP replied to the PTI’s counsel. The under discussion case is relating to the constitutional questions, the CJP remarked, adding that the hearing is being conducted openly and in front of all the political parties.
In his arguments, Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s counsel Mustafa Ramday said that the president, in his reference, asked the court to rewrite the Constitution.
The government did nothing for the “audio and video” issue mentioned in the presidential reference, he added.
At this, the PTI’s lawyer said that two of their lawmakers had approached the ECP over the matter.
Ramday said that the Centre kept silent over the regime change in Balochistan, adding "you have seen whatever happened in Islamabad and Punjab."
During the hearing, the CJP remarked: “It is our responsibility to uphold and protect the Constitution,” and declared that deviation from the Constitution was a violation.
The CJP said that the Constitution wants to end the culture of defection in politics. The top judge said that they have to see the results of constitutional violations and asked whether the violators of the Constitution be allowed to go unpunished or if they should be held accountable.
During the course of the proceeding, the advocate general Islamabad urged the top court that the defiant lawmakers should be disqualified for a lifetime.
At this, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel asked why you want the courts to do this when parliament is present?
Parliament did not include life disqualification in Article 63 (A), Justice Mandokhel said, and asked whether the House deliberately did this or it was a mistake?
Why should the court take part in the political discussion, asked the CJP.
He said the court expect the political leaders that they would defend their verdicts in public.
Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing till 1 pm tomorrow.
In the last hearing on April 12, the SC had delisted the hearing of the reference till the appointment of a new attorney after Khalid Jawed Khan's resignation who had stepped down from the post following the ouster of the PTI government.
Similarly, the PTI, on April 15, moved the top court seeking a lifetime disqualification of its defector lawmakers under Article 63-A after then prime minister Imran Khan was voted out by the National Assembly through a no-confidence motion.
The petition was filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which gives the SC the right to enforce fundamental rights.
SCBA, JUIF and PMLN submit responses in SC
On March 25, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), JUI-F and PML-N submitted their responses to the apex court regarding their positions on Article 63-A and Article 95.
The SCBA had said voting is an individual right of an MNA instead of a political party's collective right under Article 95. It had declared the MNAs' right to vote for the no-confidence motion against the prime minister to be an individual capacity.
The JUI-F had also submitted its reply to the reference, declaring Article 63-A "undemocratic". "Disqualification on voting against party policy would further weaken the already fragile democracy."
The party had said that the article in question obliges the MNAs — who got elected as independent candidates — to follow a political party if they join it after winning.
The PML-N, on the other hand, had said that Article 63-A and Article 95 are clear and every lawmaker has the right to vote. The party had seconded JUI-F's argument that the vote of every MNA will be counted and that filing of the presidential reference is a premature and unnecessary move.
The president had referred to an apex court judgment, authored by Justice Shafiur Rehman in the case of Khawaja Ahmad Tariq Rahim vs Federation of Pakistan, PLD 1992 SC 646, holding that on account of the cancerous vice of floor crossing, Pakistan has been unable to achieve stability in the polity of the country. The reference has asked what other measures and steps can be undertaken within the existing constitutional and legal framework to deter the cancerous practice of defection, floor crossing and vote buying?
The reference stated that a robust interpretation of Articles 62 and 63-A of the Constitution by the court at this critical juncture would not only salvage the representative institutions but also the democratic process and restore the faith of people in democracy.
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