SC calls Punjab AG to satisfy it on LGs dissolution

Ask province’s top law officer to submit written replies to a set of queries


Hasnaat Malik February 06, 2021
Supreme Court. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

Expressing dissatisfaction over Punjab government’s explanation, the Supreme Court has summoned advocate general of the province to answer the court's queries on the dissolution of Local Governments (LG) before the expiry of their term.

The Supreme Court has expressed dissatisfaction with the Punjab government’s reasoning behind dissolving the province’s local governments (LG) in May 2019 and summoned the Punjab advocate-general to answer its queries on the dissolution of the LGs before the expiry of their term.

A two-judge bench – comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Maqbool Baqar – has issued a five-page written order on delay in holding of LG elections across Pakistan.

The order said the Punjab additional advocate general (AAG) told the court that the LG system was brought to an end by virtue of section 3(1) of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019.

The section 3(1) stated that “all local governments constituted or continued under the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 (Act XVIII of 2013) are hereby dissolved.”

The court noted that as section 3(1) did not cite any reasons for the dissolution of the LGs, it asked the AAG the reason behind ending grassroots level democracy in the province. The AAG responded by stating that the dissolution has been challenged before this court in CPLA Nos. 48/2019 and 7/2020."

Read more: Punjab govt killed democracy by dissolving LG system: Justice Isa

The bench said since Punjab AAG did not answer the query, it asked him to respond to a hypothetical query – one which had nothing to do with the merits of the referred to pending cases.

The court asked him whether the Constitution, which mandates the LGs, also envisages premature termination of the LGs and whether the LGs can be dissolved for no rhyme or reason.

“However, the AAG elected not to answer, and the apex judges were left to wonder whether his conscience prevented him from answering,” the order said.

The bench, therefore, directed the Punjab advocate-general to appear in the court at the next hearing of the case and to submit a written reply to the above queries.

The written reply should also explain if the majority of the members of a provincial assembly can dissolve the LGs when those who are elected are their opponents.

“[The AG should also tell] whether by not holding the LG elections within the prescribed one-year period mentioned in sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019 (later extended to 21 months) the dissolved local governments stand resurrected,” the order stated.

The bench is set to resume hearing of the case on March 1.

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan stated that local governments are mandated by the Constitution and that he has always disavowed arbitrary dissolution of any elected body.

The state’s top law officer said he had always decried the erstwhile Article 58(2)(b) of the Constitution, which empowered the president to dissolve the parliament.

The LGs in Punjab were dissolved on May 5, 2019 after Punjab Governor Muhammad Sarwar signed the Punjab Local Government Act 2019 into law. While signing the new LG law, the governor had said the new system would protect every penny of the nation and ensure accountability of LG representatives.

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