SCBA says MNAs are independent in using their right to vote
The lawmakers are bound to follow the policy of the political party they are affiliated with, Justice Muneeb Akhtar of the Supreme Court said Thursday during the hearing of presidential reference seeking interpretation on Article 63(A).
A five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Aijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel is hearing the reference along with a plea filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) against public gatherings of the Opposition and the government in the federal capital — ahead of the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.
All the ways leading to Red Zone, including D-Chowk, Serena Chowk, NADRA Chowk and Merit Chowk have been barricaded with heavy police deployment to completely seal the area for the hearing of the presidential reference in the apex court today.
Moreover, police personnel are also deputed in and outside the court with water cannons present nearby.
As a result, the petitioners out to visit SC and Pakistan Secretariat faced extreme inconvenience as only Margala Road was open.
“Lawmakers have to vote in accordance with their party’s mandate. They have to follow the party policy. Full stop, that’s it,” Justice Akhtar said.
However, he noted that no MNA can be tagged as “good boy or bad boy”.
Meanwhile, Justice Mandokhel remarked that the Article 55 stipulates that all the parliamentary proceedings should be done through voting.
Whereas CJP Bandial stated that Article 63(A) is a “discipline of the emerging political system.”
“The article binds the lawmakers to stand by their party no matter even if they are unhappy with it.”
At this, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan said the country’s political system is based on Article 63(A) or Article 95 — whose violation could collapse the entire system.
Following the attorney general’s response, the bench members flooded the court with questions.
Moving on, the AGP said according to a judgment of the apex court on Article 17(2), the vote on an individual has no substance — it is considered collective and part of the party.
At this, the chief justice said the court was still deliberating over the arguments being presented to it.
“All of these [arguments] are of extreme importance,” remarked the top judge.
Justice Mandokhel, contrary to Justice Akhtar, said voting is an individual right and the parliamentarian is not bound by the party. Meanwhile, Justice Ahsan asked whether a lawmaker could vote outside party lines.
At this, Justice Akhtar said political parties are an institution and violating their discipline could weaken or even destroy them.
Justice Mandokhel asked the AGP whether a party member could leave a party if it takes wrong decisions. AGP Khan said that if a member wants to part ways with the party then they should submit their written resignation.
At this, CJP Bandial said: “This means that if a person defects from their party, they will have to face consequences.”
While Justice Ahsan observed that if such a thing happens, then a new pandora’s box will open for the government as it already has a thin majority in the National Assembly.
Justice Akhtar reiterated that if every member starts deciding their own policy, then the political party would turn from an institution to a mob.
CJP then asked the AGP whether floor-crossing was allowed in other democratic countries or not. Responding to the chief justice, AGP Khan said: “In other countries, prices go down before Christmas. In our country, prices double during Ramadan.
Moreover, Justice Mandokhel asked the AGP whether he wanted the party leader to become the “king”?
“We neither want them to be king nor do we want them to become turncoats,” the AGP responded.
The CJP then adjourned the proceedings till tomorrow and issued notices to the SCBA, PTI’s allies, and all the political parties for assisting the apex court during the proceedings.