ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) sought a reply on Thursday from the federal government on the inclusion of the prime minister's adviser on finance in the 10th National Finance Commission, without consultation in accordance with Article 160 of the constitution.
A single-member bench, comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, was hearing the petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Khurram Dastgir Khan, challenging the composition of the commission.
The court also sought replies from the law secretary, Adviser to PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the president's secretary, cabinet division secretary and other parties.
The petitioner's lawyers, PML-N leader and Barrister Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, and counsel Umer Gilani, appeared before the court.
Media reports show that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has also expressed reservations on the formation of the NFC, said the petitioner's lawyer.
This earned him the court's annoyance. Justice Aurangzeb remarked that the counsel would do better to stick to the facts. "You bring issues that you fail to resolve in parliament," said the Justice. He warned that there would be penalisation if the petition is rejected.
"Your case should have been based on the inclusion of the PM's adviser without any consultation," remarked Justice Aurangzeb.
Barrister Ranjha maintained that the Constitution of Pakistan explicitly states that the country is to be run by elected representatives.
In this case we have to review whether the PM's finance adviser is the only one who has been included without consultation, remarked Justice Aurangzeb.
Who would be the convener of the NFC in the absence of the finance minister, asked Gilani, adding that the president can't chair the commission. He argued that nowhere in the constitution does it state that the PM's adviser on finance can be the convener instead of the finance minister.
The court issued notices to the respondents and adjourned the hearing.
The participation of the financial adviser and finance secretary as members of the NFC and agreed terms of reference of the commission has been challenged in the petition.
The stance has been adopted that in the absence of the finance minister there is no provision in the constitution for the financial adviser to preside over NFC meetings.
The petition further stated that even for the appointment of non-statutory members, it is necessary to first consult with the governor of the respective province.
The plea requested the IHC to declare the notification regarding the composition of the 10th NFC null and void.
The government on May 12 had constituted the 10th NFC to announce a new award for the sharing of federal divisible resources between the Centre and provinces.