Hitting back amid criticism of its judgments, the Supreme Court Tuesday said it had become a norm in Pakistan to blame courts if their decisions were not favourable. Hearing a case seeking interpretation of Article 63-A, the apex court remarked that the courts were praised if decisions were favourable and grilled if these were otherwise. Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel said people did know about the judgments of the court, yet they blindly follow whatever their leaders say. The bench made these remarks after PPP lawyer Farook H Naik said the country was heading towards “anarchy” and nobody was willing to accept the decision of the Supreme Court. About Article 63-A, Justice Ijazul Ahsan said prima facie the purpose of this article was to stop floor-crossing. “The court wants to examine if punishment for defection is harsh enough to act as a deterrent,” he added, says a news report. “What will be the sentence for defection, this is the actual question,” he said. Justice Mandokhel asked if defection was considered a crime then why does the vote of such a person count? “Is it a crime to vote against the party lines…what kind of crime is this that has been allowed by the Constitution,” he asked. Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the court gave its recommendations in a case regarding the Senate election but nobody followed that. “Why are political parties acting as neutral on defections,” he said, adding that defectors were given offices in other parties. Naik argued that Article 96 of 1973’s Constitution stopped defections. He added that as per the 1973 Constitution, the vote of defectors would not count. He added that a military dictator added Articles 62-63 to the Constitution. Justice Bandial said if a member cast a vote against the party lines during the fourth year of the government then it would probably take a year for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Supreme Court to decide on the case against the said member. However, by the time reference would be decided, the assemblies would have completed their term and the member would not face any consequences, such as de-seating. At this, Justice Mandokhail interjected that the top court was also bound to decide the case within a specific period of time. The court adjourned the case till Wednesday (today). A day earlier, CJP Bandial observed that the recent tirade against the judiciary did not bother them, as protecting and preserving the Constitution was their duty, adding that the court functions 24 hours in this regard. Without naming anyone in particular, the chief justice stressed the apex court should be respected. The CJP’s comments come a few days after Imran Khan, in his first rally after being ousted, asked the judiciary to explain the reason behind its decision to throw open its doors in the dead of night when the fate of a no-trust resolution against him hung in the balance. During the hearing, PPP’s lawyer Farooq H Naek argued that the 17th constitutional amendment gave the prime minister and party chiefs immense powers. “Even the Supreme Court cannot take action against the prime minister.” The chief justice remarked that Article 63-A’s purpose was to disqualify a defecting lawmaker, to which Naek said the Article in question also did not mean the “hanging” of a defected member. “No argument has been presented on lifetime disqualification of defectors,” the PPP’s counsel said. Justice Ahsan observed that the purpose of Article 63-A was to prevent defection from the party, “However, it remains to be seen whether the punishment for switching parties is strong enough to shake the conscience of a lawmaker concerned.” He noted that it had to be decided whether defection was right or wrong in the first place. “History tells us that defection doesn’t only take place because one’s conscience is awakened,” Justice Ahsan said, adding “what will be the punishment for defection is the question.” Naek contended that the defecting lawmaker would be disqualified only until the completion of the remaining term of the government. Justice Mandokhail asked Naek whether he was accepting that defection was a crime. “If it is a crime, then why is the vote of a criminal counted?” he questioned. The chief justice observed that the court had given its verdict in the Senate election case, but no one followed it. “Why is a political party neutral on the defection of lawmakers?” the top judge asked. He expressed surprise that a person leaving a party was given a position elsewhere. Justice Ahsan cited an observation of an American judge, saying people in the US would not vote for a person who went against the court orders. Naek told the bench that the country was heading towards anarchy as “no one is willing to adhere to the court orders”. The CJP remarked that the situation was not bad enough to avoid discussions on a general matter.