Defection outlawed – 18 May 2022

The decision will find its maximum at the ECP, which is set to decide the fate of PTI defectors in the Punjab Assembly

In a decisive judgment, the Supreme Court has ruled that a vote from defecting lawmakers not countable. In a much-awaited decision on a presidential reference seeking the top court’s interpretation on the fate and conduct of defectors, it was observed with a 3-2 verdict that their vote is inadmissible. The larger bench, however, refused to be judgmental on the span of disqualification, whether lifetime or for a specific period of time, and left for the parliament to decide. Likewise, it said Article 63-A cannot be read in isolation and has to be looked into in a holistic sense. The learned judges went on to state that defection can “derail parliamentary democracy and destabilize political parties”, categorically pointing out that the rights of political parties had been underlined in Article 17, while the objective of Article 63-A was to prevent defection.

The bench with a majority voice did not allow legislators to vote against party line in four instances as stated under Article 63-A: the election of PM and CM; a vote of confidence or no-confidence; a Constitution amendment bill; and a money bill. This decision will go a long way in strengthening democratic credentials and embolden the spirit of political cohesion on their expressed manifestoes. The court believes, and rightly so, that the vote is the trust of the party the legislators belong to and is not out of free will. The verdict is a shot in the arm for parliamentary sovereignty as it said that legislation is the prerogative of the elected representatives, and the court should not rule on it.

The decision will find its maximum at the ECP, which is set to decide the fate of PTI defectors in the Punjab Assembly against whom references are under scrutiny. The spirit of apex court decree disqualifies them instantly, as their vote in Hamza Shehbaz’s favour stands nullified. This puts the infant cabinet-less government of Hamza in the doldrums, and is set to send in ripple effects on the ensuing political instability. The onus is now on the elected representatives to uphold the spirit of the Constitution, and reassess their political markings, accordingly. The presidential reference hearing is in utter seriousness and its classified pronouncement has cleared the fog of whispers on defection. Voting against party spirit and floor-crossing stands outlawed.

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