The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Insaf (PTI)-led Punjab government may be in trouble as the Supreme Court sought explanation on Monday as to why the local governments in the province were dissolved before the expiry of their term.
A two-judge bench of the apex court, comprising by Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Maqbool Baqar, issued a written order regarding delay in holding local polls all over the country.
The order referred Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja’s statement wherein it had been stated that all local governments were dissolved in Punjab on May 4, 2019, although the prescribed term of the institutions was until January 1, 2022. The CEC also stated that dissolution of local governments in Punjab before expiry of their term was illegal/unconstitutional.
Last year, four representatives of the Punjab local governments moved a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court against the dissolution of the local bodies system working under the Local Government Act 2013.
Senior lawyers have been urging the apex court to pass a coercive ruling if it proved that the Punjab government dissolved the local governments in contravention of the law and the Constitution.
Umer Gilani Advocate said that the tenure of the elected local governments in Punjab was supposed to last till January 2022, according to the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013. However, this tenure was cut short unconstitutionally by Punjab Local Government Act, 2019. which sent packing around 50,000 elected representatives.
“Many of the deposed elected representatives, including my client Ahmad Iqbal Chaudhary, have challenged this dissolution before the Lahore High Courts. We have contended that the dissolution of elected local governments in mid-tenure violates Article 140A,” Gilani said.
The lawyer said that this stance was also endorsed recently by the chief election commissioner. “It is the most unfortunate that the case, despite its constitutional significance, has remained dormant in the high court, Gilani added.
Lawyer Nawazish Ali Pirzada said that the elected representatives took the oath of office on December 31, 2016, whereas under the Constitution, the term of elected members is five years. “The Punjab government brought a new act to advocate the violation of various provisions of the Constitution,” the counsel had told the court.
In July last year, a special bench of the apex court led by Justice Mushir Alam, while hearing the matter, issued notice to the attorney general for Pakistan as well as the advocate general of Punjab. The bench had also hinted at issuing order regarding restoration of LG Act 2013.
Interestingly, the bench was changed and the case was clubbed with the petitions of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against the Sindh Local Government Ordinance 2013.
A three-judge bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar heard MQM’s petition. In October last year, the bench, while reserving its judgment, had noted that the court would give guidelines, regarding enforcement of Article 140-A of the Constitution for all over the country.
As the judgment still being awaited, another bench led by Justice Qazi Faez Isa on November 18, 2020 took up the matter regarding delay in local government polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Last week, the bench resumed hearing of the case wherein the CEC along with three Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members appeared before the bench.
The court had summoned schedule of the local government polls in all the provinces. A senior Punjab government official told The Express Tribune that the provincial government had proposed to the ECP to hold the local polls in Punjab September. The bench will resume hearing on February 4.
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