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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday taking strong exception to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks against the judges in a protest rally in Kamalia asked can’t the premier restrain from issuing irresponsible statements.

A five-member bench, comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail heard the Presidential Reference, filed under Article 186 of the Constitution and the President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Ahsan Bhoon filed the petition under Article 184(3).

Justice Mandokhail said: “Whether the Prime Minister Imran Khan can’t restrain from issuing irresponsible statements.” “When the PM does not have confidence in the highest forum [the SC] then how the people will have confidence in him.”

Justice Miankhel said wrong impression is being taken of the queries asked by the bench members during the Reference proceeding. He said two days ago, the prime minister while addressing a rally in Kamalia passed unpleasant remarks against the judiciary. The PM in his address in Kamalia said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leader Nawaz Sharif is trying to woo judges against his government.

Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan said this news was published in a newspaper. Upon that Justice Miankhel said the news item was published in many newspapers and aired on various TV channels. The chief justice said the leaders of the political parties should not speak against the courts, adding such remarks are also on social media. The CJP said, “We are not influenced by such things.”

Justice Mandokhail said the judges ask questions to understand the issue, presented before the court.

The attorney general said the court needed to interpret whether a member who defects can contest the by-election or he would have to wait until the general election or would be disqualified, permanently. Justice Mandokhail asked the attorney general that the defection yet has not taken, but you are asking the court to determine how long the member remains out of the parliament for defecting a party. He further asked the attorney general whether he has filed the Reference for the future. The AGP replied, no, adding this is also for the present situation.

Justice Mandokhail inquired is it the will of all the political parties in the Parliament or it is just the will of the ruling party to interpret the Article 63A of the Constitution. He said if it was the will of all the parties then let the Parliament decide the consequences of defection. The judge said according to Article 63A of the Constitution if the party leader issues declaration upon the defection and not following the party line and sends the matter to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) then let the ECP and the Supreme Court decide it.

He asked the attorney general that when the law is clear then what does the government wants?

The AGP said; “I am not seeking clarification, but have asked questions from the apex court.”

Justice Mandokhail said it might happen that the dissenting members’ conscience has awakened.

The attorney general argued that the Parliament was conscious of the fact that such act [defection] would affect the system.

Justice Mandokhail said it may be drastic for the incumbent government, but it would benefit the other party. He said that the process in Article 95 is given to topple the government of the ruling party and chance to other party to form the government. At that, Justice Ijaz inquired from the attorney general how much expenses are incurred on an election. The AGP replied in billions. The chief justice said not in billions of rupees because this amount is required for general elections.

Justice Bandial observed that even if a member was de-seated and the no-confidence motion against the prime minister was unsuccessful, the ruling party “still loses the majority”. He asked the AGP if the members defect in no-confidence motion they are de-seated and as per you they also not honest. He said what if the dissenters resign then in the confidence motion the party will also lose the majority.

Justice Mandokhail said when the defection of a member is proved according to the clauses of Article 63A then he will go to the electorate. He remarked why not leave it to voters to decide about the fate of that legislator. He further asked the AGP why does he want that he be convicted and that he may not allowed contesting election for five years.

Justice Bandial observed that if one is driving on motorway, where the maximum speed allowed is 120, but he drives at the speed of 180 per hour, then where is the mens rea.

Justice Munib Akhtar observed that the case law developed over a period of time to disqualify the member under Article 62(1) (f) for mis-declaration or false declaration. It all hovers around at the time of submitting nomination paper, which is pre-election time. “You want to extend this into the post-election scenario, which is totally different in dimension.” He questioned how a lawmaker could be disqualified for life without misconduct proceedings being initiated against him.

Justice Ahsan observed that “a few lawmakers switching loyalties to change a government at any time is a joke”. He said Article 63-A was related to de-seating, questioning how it could be linked with lifetime disqualification. Different forums were available to take action against those who changed loyalties, he noted, observing that linking Article 63-A to lifetime disqualification was “merely a hypothesis”.

At the onset of the hearing, AGP Khan referred to the Supreme Court judgment delivered in case of Speaker National Assembly vs Habib Akram, in which, the SC had asked all the candidates to submit an affidavit along with the nomination papers. The court had declared that nomination papers without the affidavit would be incomplete, he said, adding: “In the law, there was no requirement of an affidavit. It was submitted on orders of the court.” The court had said in the verdict that the move was aimed at ensuring transparency in the election process, the AGP informed the bench. The case was adjourned until today (Tuesday).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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