ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) approached the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking a declaration that any sort of defection would trigger a life-time ban from contesting elections.

Drafted by Babar Awan, the petition was moved under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which gives the apex court the right to enforce fundamental rights.

This is the same plea previously raised in the presidential reference which former attorney general Khalid Jawed Khan had drafted before his resignation. With his resignation and the change of government, doubts have cropped up about the fate of the reference since the new administration seems not as interested in pursuing the matter as the previous one.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the National Assembly speaker, the federation through the Cabinet Division and the law secretary have been made respondents in the fresh petition.

The PTI petition questioned whether the act of defection, commonly known as floor crossing, attracted notoriety under the Constitution’s Article 63-A, which envisaged disqualification.

A member who leaves a parliamentary party without resigning the National Assembly seat by committing defection and changes loyalty in favour of another political party should never be treated as righteous and honest and should be disqualified for life, argued the petition.

It recalled how the Supreme Court had held on a number of occasions that the Constitution was not a random collection of legal principles but a comprehensive scheme for the enforcement of fundamental rights.

The true spirit behind inclusion of an anti-defection provision could not be redeemed by treating the vote of those members who have allegedly defected as a disputed vote liable to be excluded from the final count till the determination of the issue of defection of the voting member in the manner provided in Article 63-A of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has observed in many cases that defection, or floor crossing, is nothing short of a disease as it destroys the spirit of democratic governance, the petitioner argued.

Political parties are the backbone of a parliamentary form of government and are ultimately accountable to the nation through elections in accordance with the Constitution, the petition said.

It argued floor crossing exposes the entire system to scorn and ridicule by the international community as it learns that the country’s legislators lack scruples and have a price.

This makes floor crossing a national security threat as well, the petitioner added.

“It amounts to usurpation of the people’s mandate as a political party chosen by the majority of voters is removed from power by a handful of individuals at their own sweet will.

“In a fragile democracy like ours, the past casts a long shadow over parliament. The parliament’s functions cannot be allowed to succumb to anything but the Constitution itself and Article 63-A needs to be interpreted in order to exorcise the menace of defections from our body-politic.”

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2022

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