ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has requested the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to resume the hearing of the presidential reference on Article 63-A of the Constitution from May 9, to further postpone the proceedings and take it up after May 17.

This is the second such request to the apex court for adjournment since April 11 as earlier Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman had apprised the five-judge bench of resignation by then Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan and urged for a week-long adjournment.

In his application filed on Saturday, senior counsel for the PML-N Makhdoom Ali Khan stated that the hearing was fixed for May 9 inadvertently despite the fact that the counsel was out of Pakistan and on a general adjournment until May 17.

The PML-N counsel sought that the application be placed before Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial who is heading the five-judge SC bench at the earliest to avoid inconvenience to counsels for different parties.

The case was last heard on April 22 when Advocate Khan in his arguments tried to convince the bench that through the reference the apex court was being asked to invoke Article 63-A only to bypass the requirement of Article 239 of the Constitution that deals with the constitutional amendment. Thus if the SC read lifetime disqualification for defection as well as not to count vote of the defecting member, then the court’s opinion would mean substituting the constitutional amendment, he argued. The counsel further argued that none of the members against whom the reference was intended with the apprehension that they might defect were made respondents or notices were issued to them.

At the last hearing when the CJP asked Additional AGP Aamir Rehman if he would like to argue after the counsel for the PML-N finished his argument, the latter said he had been awaiting instructions from the new PML-N government on the presidential reference and believed that the new AGP, whenever appointed, would like to present his point of view before the court.

Meanwhile, an informed source told Dawn that the new AGP was likely to be appointed soon after Eid holidays.

The reference has sought the SC opinion on interpretation of Article 63-A to achieve the constitutional objective of curbing the menace of defections and purification of the electoral process and democratic accountability. The reference wonders if a member, engaged in constitutionally prohibited and morally reprehensible act of defection, can nevertheless claim a vested right to have his vote counted and given equal weight or there exists or is to be read into the Constitution a restriction to exclude such tainted votes from the vote count.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2022

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