Govt seeks adjournment of hearing on presidential reference

ISLAMABAD: A day before the hearing on the presidential reference for interpreting Article 63-A of the Constitution by the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s Office on Monday sought its adjournment to next week.

A one-page request on behalf of Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman stated that in the wake of Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan’s resignation, the apex court may adjourn the reference pending the formation of the new government and the appointment of an attorney general.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) also moved an application seeking the formation of a full-court consisting of all the judges of the Supreme Court to hear the reference.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, a five-judge Supreme Court bench was supposed to commence hearing on Tuesday (April 12), but the application has now been delisted.

PTI wants full court to take up matter regarding Article 63-A interpretation

Moved by Babar Awan, a member of the PTI legal team, the application pleaded that the presidential reference is placed before the full court.

The application stated that the bench named to take up the reference is the same bench that decided the suo motu case and passed a short order on April 7 requiring then prime minister Imran Khan to face the no-confidence motion.

The application highlighted that the five-member bench in its April 7 short order had issued certain observations regarding Article 63-A by clarifying that the short order would affect the operation of Article 63A of the Constitution and the consequences in relation to any member of the National Assembly if he votes on the no-trust motion or election of the prime minister in such a manner as is tantamount to his defection from the political party to which he belongs within the meaning of Article 63A.

The intricate questions of independence and separation of judiciary from other state institutions and also the question of the supremacy of parliament, as definitively enshrined in multiple articles of the Constitution and rules of business of parliament itself, are involved as questions of public importance, future of the parliamentary form of government and preservation of the trichotomy of powers.

Life-long disqualification

The reference has submitted before the apex court that the most suitable and appropriate disqualification for a declared defector should be a disqualification for life as provided under Article 62(1)(f) since the constantly recurring defection was a self-feeding menace.

“Such members must never be allowed to return to parliament nor their tainted votes be counted in any constitutional or democratic exercise,” the reference had emphasized.

The reference had also asked whether keeping in view the spirit of the Constitution, which provides for a parliamentary form of government, which interpretation of Article 63A should be adopted and implemented to achieve the constitutional objective of curbing defections and purification of the electoral process.

The reference wondered where a member engages in a constitutionally prohibited and morally reprehensible act of defection, can the member nevertheless claim a vested right to have his vote counted and given equal weightage.