Govt plans to move Supreme Court seeking review of decision on Article 63-A

Govt plans to move Supreme Court seeking review of decision on Article 63-A


It may be recalled that the SCBA had already filed similar plea against the order on June 23, 2022

ISLAMABAD (Web Desk) – The government plans to move the Supreme Court seeking a review of its decision on the interpretation of Article 63-A of the Constitution, it is learnt.

It may be recalled that the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) had already filed a similar petition against the order.

However, the government doubts that Abid Shahid Zuberi, the current SCBA president, would pursue the plea as his political inclinations are “diametrically opposed to that of the current ruling coalition,” an insider said.

The government fears that Zuberi might withdraw the review petition altogether. In this scenario, the government will lose the chance to explain its point of view to convince the top court to revisit the decision, he added.

The SCBA filed the review petition on June 23, 2022, through Mansoor Usman Awan who has since assumed the office of the attorney general for Pakistan. Now he cannot argue the matter on behalf of SCBA whenever the case is taken up. He however can assist the court if ordered.

The federal government and Zuberi have been reportedly at odds since February when an audio of the latter leaked on social media. The audio conversation featured former chief minister Parvez Elahi who was purportedly asking Zuberi to fix the case of his ex-aide before a certain Supreme Court judge.

The petition

It may be noted that the Article 63-A provides the process to disqualify a lawmaker who votes against the party line in the assembly during the election of the prime minister or chief minister, vote of confidence or no-confidence and budget.

In May 2022, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court, while deciding the presidential reference for the interpretation of the article, observed that votes of defecting lawmakers would not be counted.

The decision sent the transient Hamza Shahbaz-led government in Punjab packing which was formed with the support of 25 dissident PTI lawmakers who voted in his favour.

In its review petition, the SCBA had argued that the court’s opinion through the judgement was not in accordance with the parliamentary democracy established under the Constitution.

The framers of the Constitution had intended to disregard defecting votes to be a stop-gap arrangement for ensuring stability during the first decade of the Constitution, it stated.

Had it been the intent of the framers, or subsequently the Parliament to provide for disregarding defecting votes, a constitutional provision similar to the erstwhile Article 96(5) could have been inserted in the Constitution.

Thus in the absence of such provision, the interpretation of Article 63-A, adopted by the Supreme Court, amounted to “reincarnating the proviso to Article 96(5) of the Constitution which had not only been expressly subjected to a sunset clause by the framers but has also never been re-introduced by the parliament.”

The Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 63-A was tantamount to rewriting or reading into the Constitution which contradicts its previous orders.

The court had held in the past that the Constitution was to be interpreted strictly in accordance with the clear and express language and that there was no room to supply additional meaning to constitutional provisions where there was no ambiguity in the language of the Constitution, the SCBA said.