President’s violation of Constitution doesn’t invoke Article 6

Ansar Abbasi
Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

ISLAMABAD: Even if President Dr Arif Alvi violates the Constitution and avoids convening the first session of the National Assembly after Feb 8 elections, his act will not invoke Article 6 of the Constitution.

The Article 6 only deals with the acts of abrogation, subversion and suspension of the Constitution, which in the past have been repeatedly done by military dictators. It does not cover acts of violation of the Constitution, which often occurs and does not entail any punishment.

The Article 6 reads as: “[(1) 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. (2) Any person aiding or abetting 3[or collaborating] the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason. (2A) An act of high treason mentioned in clause (1) or clause (2) shall not be validated by any court including the Supreme Court and a High Court. (3) [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] shall by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason.” President Alvi’s decision to return the government summary for convening the National Assembly session has generated a controversy and he is accused of violating the Constitution, which says the session of National Assembly be summoned within 21 days of general elections.

The president’s interpretation is that since the National Assembly is not complete because of the pending decision of reserved seats for the PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council, therefore, he is not summoning the NA session.

PTI supports Alvi’s view whereas other political parties, including PMLN and PPP, see the president as violating the Constitution. Most of the legal experts, however, also don’t see much weight in Alvi’s stance.

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto hinted at initiating cases against Alvi for violating the Constitution but there is no constitutional provision or legal option providing for such an action against Alvi.

Dr Alvi was found violating the Constitution by the Supreme Court in Qasim Suri case where the president, on the advice of the then prime minister Imran Khan, had dissolved the National Assembly in April 2022.

The Supreme Court had undone the dissolution of the National Assembly but neither Alvi nor Imran Khan or Qasim Suri was penalised for acting in violation of the Constitution.

In our case, violation of the Constitution is a routine affair. However, only in certain matters constitutional violations get the attention of the media and politics. Constitutional articles regarding fundamental rights, principles of policy and Islamic provisions are violated the most but these violations generally go unregistered.