July 16, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
LAHORE: Senior constitutional experts have opposed a Supreme Court judge’s suggestion that parliamentarians should consider broadening the scope of the constitutional provision of high treason to avert any future constitutional crisis.
In his additional note to the judgement of the five-member Supreme Court bench that set aside the rejection of a vote of no-confidence resolution against then prime minister Imran Khan in April, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Mian Khel opined that parliamentarians should decide whether unconstitutional acts committed by constitutional office holders should fall under Article 6 relating to the offence of high treason.
“To my understanding, Article 5 of the Constitution, which mandates “obedience to the Constitution,” was a great cited to violate the Constitution. However, whether the stated acts attract Article 6 of the Constitution is also left open to be determined by the Parliamentarians as to whether they leave open the doors for such unconstitutional acts or take suitable measures to stop such like mess in future,” Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Mian Khel wrote in his additional note.
According to Article 6, any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.
In the opinion of the constitutional experts, the rejection of the no-confidence motion by the Deputy Speaker on April 3 without voting and then the President dissolving the assemblies on the advice of the Prime Minister was certainly a violation of the Constitution but it could be equated with the provision of high treason under Article 6.
Hamid Khan, former president of Supreme Court Bar Assocaition, said that the actions of April 3 did not fall under Article 6. “Constitutional provisions were violated and these were redressed by the apex court,” he told Voicepk.net.
He said unfortunately genuine cases of high treason by military dictators who abrogated the constitution have never been properly prosecuted in the country. “Gen Musharraf was sentenced to death in the high treason case but was allowed to leave the country while the appeal is still pending before the Supreme Court,” he said.
JUIF Senator and senior lawyer Kamran Murtaza said that in his personal opinion Article 6 could not be invoked in the deputy speaker ruling case. In his view, cases of abrogation and subversion of constitution should be prosecuted first before the parliamentarians could consider broadening scope of the ambit of Article 6 to constitutional violations as committed by the deputy speaker.
Responding to a question about the present coalition government would consider invoking Article 6 against the former deputy speaker and speaker in view of the Supreme Court justice’s suggestion, Ahmed Owais, former advocate general of Punjab in the Pakistan Tehrik Insaaf government, clarified that the additional note was an opinion of a single judge and not a ruling of the court. “The proceedings of Article 6 cannot be started on a mere opinion of a judge,” he said. He said any move to invoke Article 6 would open a Pandora box. “Article 6 is a proper trial and each side would have to explain things in court that have yet been spoken about yet,” he said.
However, Latif Afridi, senior lawyer and former president of Supreme Court Bar Association, was in favour of invoking Article 6 in the case. “The violations of the constitution are increasing because no action is being taken against those responsible,” he said.
Federal ministers from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz coalition have hinted at initiating proceedings under Article 6 against former prime minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi following the apex court judge’s additional note. However, no other parties in the coalition have yet publicly supported any such action on the issue.
According to the Constitution, the federal cabinet has to approve registration of a case of high treason under Article 6. A special bench comprising high court judges has to be constituted for the proceedings of the high atreason trial.