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Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Friday said that the country has to be taken towards a “mature democracy.”

The remark came during the hearing of the presidential reference seeking the interpretation of Article 63(A) of the Constitution.

Supreme Court’s larger bench — headed by CJP Bandial and comprising Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel — was hearing the reference.

“We have to take the country towards mature democracy and for that, it is necessary for the legislators to have a fruitful discussion,” CJP Bandial remarked.

He observed that the votes of the dissidents should not be counted to ensure national interest and to end the scourge of shifting loyalties.

“Court’s job is to answer all constitutional questions,” he said, asking if the court is bound to answer according to the words stated in the reference or can it interpret otherwise.

Justice Mandokhel, while addressing PTI’s lawyer Advocate Ali Zafar, said that political parties should treat “this cancer” on their own if they have any inconvenience because of it.

“Only one political party is against dissidents. We have most political parties that oppose your [PTI’s] stance,” Justice Mandokhel remarked.

He asked if the PTI expects the court to rule in its favour while ignoring the majority’s opinion.

Justice Akhter, however, was of the view that the only graceful way for the deviant member is to resign and go home.

The former PTI-led government had filed the reference after it started losing majority in the National Assembly as a number of its members supported the opposition of that time over the no-confidence motion submitted against former prime minister Imran Khan.

As the hearing started, Advocate Ali Zafar said the purpose of this law was to put an end to horse-trading and its violation was the same as the violation of the Constitution.

He said the vote cast in violation of Article 63-A would not be counted and added that the law applied to the members of political parties, not independent candidates.

Justice Ahsan asked Zafar whether he was saying that votes would not be cast.

“Defection and counting votes are two different things,” he said, asking that if there were no directions by a political party then will the votes be counted?

“Are you saying that the votes will not be counted irrespective of directions by the party,” he asked.

The PTI lawyer responded that the party head will issue directives and declarations against defectors will be issued afterwards.

Justice Mandokhel said if the speaker would not count votes then there would be no crime. As per Article 63-A, a lawmaker will be de-seated for violating party head’s directions by voting against the party lines.

“The party head will issue a show-cause notice after the casting of the vote and they could also withdraw the notice if satisfied with the answer provided by the dissident lawmaker,” he added.

The court will now take up the case after Eid.

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