ISLAMABAD: Justice Munib Akhtar of the Supreme Court on Wednesday likened defection in parliamentary democracy to the devastation wrought by cancer on a human body.

“This is a very apt analogy (comparison),” observed Justice Akhtar, a member of the five-judge Supreme Court bench that took up the presidential reference seeking interpretation of Article 63-A of the Constitution, which deals with defection.

Justice Akhtar was trying to emphasise that when a candidate enclosed a certificate with the election form stating that they belonged to a certain political party, they pledged loyalty to that party and eventually got elected by voters on the basis of party affiliation. Thus the purpose of Article 63-A was to cement “loyalty” to a political party and “not slavery to the party head”, Justice Akhtar observed, wondering why such a member should not be disqualified for life under Article 62(1)(f).

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial wondered what would be left for the ECP or the Supreme Court to decide in appeal if it was held that defection invited disqualification for life. He also highlighted an interesting feature of Article 63-A: it empowers the head of a parliamentary party to condone an act of defection.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that political parties were the backbone of parliamentary democracy.

Farooq H. Naek, representing PPP in the case, said legislators had always kept the matter of disqualification with themselves instead of delegating this power to any other institution.

Meanwhile, Sindh Advocate General Salman Talibuddin requested the SC to return the reference unanswered as the “judiciary is being dragged unnecessarily into political disputes and the timing of the reference is suspicious”.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2022

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