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ISLAMABAD: Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) on Tuesday informed that Prime Minister Imran Khan has great respect and regard for the Supreme Court and its judges. Clarifying the PM’s remarks about judges, AGP Khalid Jawed Khan informed that he spoke to the premier about his speech in Kamalia. He submitted that the PM in his Kamalia speech was referring to the unfortunate attack on the Supreme Court in 1997 and the circumstances leading to the highly controversial removal of late Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.

“It was in that specific context that he was referring to his apprehensions. However, the prime minister unreservedly reiterates his full faith and confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Supreme Court judges,” he added.

Justice Mazhar Alam, a day ago (Monday), while hearing the Presidential Reference took strong exception to PM Khan’s remarks against the judges in a protest rally in Kamalia. He said a few 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) supremo Nawaz Sharif is trying to woo judges against his government.

Apex court takes strong exception to PM’s remarks against judges

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail said: “Whether Prime Minister Imran Khan can’t restrain himself from issuing irresponsible statements.”

“When the PM does not have confidence in the highest forum [the SC] then how his members will have faith in him,” the judge remarked.

A five-member bench, comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice 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).

During the proceeding, Justice Akhtar observed that according to Article 66(1) … no member shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in the Parliament. He further said Article 17(2) of Constitution says; “… Every citizen shall have the right to form or be a member of a political party.”

Justice Akhtar questioned in the parliamentary form of government is it not the fundamental right of the political party to maintain its integrity and cohesion, adding is the defection in the House not against party cohesion and integrity?

Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that none of the parties could say the defection [of its members] is permitted.

The political parties’ stance is that a member be de-seated on defection, but they have not given timeframe how long the member can’t contest the election. He said; “We (the SC) will determine the balance about the quality of the system and what is the purpose of the Constitution.”

The chief justice said there must be integrity of the system and the members must ensure party discipline. However, he said the Constitution is short off to decide how long the member can’t contest on defection.

He remarked; “Are we (the Court) not going in the realm of Constitution making; or trying to make Constitution in certain way; or impose the system of government to which it (the parliament) is not mature enough to adopt.” The CJP further stated; “We are not constitution makers but we interpret the constitution.” The attorney general argued that the Supreme Court’s opinion in case of the Senate Reference that secrecy of ballot in the Senate election is not “absolute”.

He informed that the next Senate elections would be held on traceable ballot, adding the Senate election would be held in compliance with the apex court’s judgment. Justice Mandokhail asked whether a member of the political party can join another party.

The AGP replied yes, but first he has to leave his own party in order to join another party. The relationship between the party and the member is of trust and the seat.

The AGP argued that that defection was no ordinary political activity, adding the Constitution mentioned the tenure of an assembly, not of lawmakers. He said under Article 52, lawmakers’ membership ends in tenure of the National Assembly.

He said the purpose of Article 63-A will be fulfilled with lifetime disqualification and the law would not serve its purpose by de-seating lawmakers till the completion of the assembly’s tenure.

The government’s lawyer said that in case of a declaration, Article 62(1) (f) will be applied to the dissenting lawmaker.

At that Justice Mandokhail asked whether disagreement meant dissent as per the AGP, to which Khan replied in the negative. Justice Mandokhail said Article 63-A referred to de-seating, not disqualification. He added that there was no need for further discussion when there was no mention of disqualification. “Will the Election Commission of Pakistan conduct an inquiry about defection?”

Justice Ijazul said Article 63-A would not need evidence as defection was not a mistake but a deliberate action and further added that the court will have to do a lot of manoeuvring to determine lifetime disqualification.

Justice Akhtar, giving his opinion, said that there was no mention of lifelong disqualification in Article 63-A. There were separate court decisions on the application and consequences of Article 62(1) (f). Justice Mandokhail added that in case of possible defections, the party head was bound to listen to the version of the lawmakers by issuing a show-cause notice.

The case was adjourned until Wednesday (today).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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