Setback to PPP: LG amendment illegal, rules SHC

Court orders election of local govt representatives through secret balloting


Our Correspondents February 10, 2016
Court orders election of local govt representatives through secret balloting PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

KARACHI:


The controversial amendment to the local government (LG) act by the Sindh government, which sought show-of hands voting for mayor and deputy mayors, has been termed illegal by the court.


The Sindh High Court (SHC) division bench has ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to immediately fix a date for the election of the mayor, deputy mayor, chairpersons and vice-chairpersons in Sindh through secret balloting, instead.

The judges had previously reserved their verdict on the amendment introduced by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013.



The SHC bench, comprising justices Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Syed Saeeduddin Nasir, pronounced their short order after hearing final arguments from the five opposition parties, the ruling party and the counsel for the provincial government.

"In the view of the above, the respondent ECP is directed to immediately fix the date for conducting election of mayor, deputy mayor, chairman and vice-chairman of the councils in the province of Sindh through secret ballot," stated the short order.

The Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) brought the matter to the court, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League - Functional. Their lawyers, Barrister Farogh Naseem and Syed Mureed Ali Shah, had argued that under Article 226 of the Constitution, all elections, except those of the prime minister and chief minister, shall be held through a secret ballot. Therefore, any procedure to elect LG representatives through a show of hands will be illegal, stated the petitioners, demanding that the amendment should be struck down.

The PML-N had challenged the amendment that provided for increasing the number of candidates on reserved seats, including women, labourers, youth and minority, equal to that of the elected representatives.

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Karachi chapter and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had also joined the case by becoming interveners. Through this common order, the judges allowed all the petitions filed by the PML-N, the MQM, the PML-F as well as intervener applications by the PTI and JI.

PPP stance

The ruling PPP became intervener in the case through Advocate Khalid Javed Khan, who argued that the procedure of LG representatives' election can be changed through legislation. He said votes can be bought through the old system of secret balloting to elect representatives.

Khan had clarified, however, that the PPP had not made this amendment as an individual group but rather the assembly had passed the amendment introduced by the party. "The provincial assembly has been set-up under Article 148 of the Constitution to do legislation and/or make amendments to the laws," the lawyer argued.

Sindh government's stance

Advocate Farooq H Naek, who represented the Sindh government, also defended the amendment. He contended that Article 226 does not apply to the elections of LG representatives. "Article 140 empowers the provincial government to make laws for the local government," he argued. "Since the mayors are also heads of the house, like the CM and PM, thus secret balloting is not required," he claimed.

Reacting to Wednesday's judgement, PPP Sindh information secretary Waqar Mehdi said, "We are waiting for a detailed judgement after which the government will decide whether or not to challenge it in the apex court." The government is consulting constitutional experts, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th,  2016.

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