The court’s declaration that votes cast by lawmakers in defiance of directions given by their parliamentary party (in the election of the prime minister and the chief minister or in a vote of no-confidence or vote of confidence) ‘cannot be counted and must (therefore) be disregarded’ has pushed the country’s most populous province into a deeper crisis.
Most constitutional lawyers say Hamza has ceased to be the province’s chief executive because the votes of 26 dissident PTI lawmakers who had voted for him on April 16 stand uncounted after the court’s judgement.
Legal experts believe validity of PML-N’s Punjab govt will be challenged by PTI after SC says defecting votes to be disregarded.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday, in its decision on a presidential reference seeking interpretation of Article 63-A of the Constitution, said the votes of defecting lawmakers will not be counted.
Article 63-A seeks to restrict lawmakers from voting (or abstaining) in violation of party instructions “in relation to election of the prime minister or chief minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a money bill or a Constitution (amendment) bill”.
In its interpretation of this article, the apex court said votes cast against party direction “cannot be counted and must be disregarded, and this is so regardless of whether the party head, subsequent to such vote, proceeds to take, or refrains from taking, action that would result in a declaration of defection”.
This opinion of the apex court raises some pertinent questions with respect to the election of the Punjab chief minister, which resulted in PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz becoming the provincial chief executive.
That is because contrary to what happened in the National Assembly, the votes of 25 dissident PTI lawmakers were instrumental in helping Hamza get over the line; he received a total of 197 votes while 186 votes are required for a simple majority. If the 25 votes by PTI lawmakers are removed from his tally, he would lose his majority.
Separately, two no-confidence motions are pending against the Punjab Assembly speaker and deputy speaker. Both PML-N and PTI are awaiting the ECP’s decision on the PTI defectors’ fate, insisting on their own interpretation of the law and lobbing legal challenges at each other Little wonder the province’s administrative machinery is virtually paralysed because of lack of decision-making by the political authority.