Supreme Court fixes LG polls case for hearing on March 25

Three-judge bench headed by CJ Gulzar will hear pleas against Punjab LG Act


Hasnaat Malik March 20, 2021
Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Supreme Court has fixed March 25 as the date for hearing the case of local government elections.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, will take up the constitution petitions against the enactment of Punjab Local Government Act, 2019. The petitioners challenged the dissolution of local governments in Punjab before the expiry of their term.

On that day, the bench will also hear the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s petition seeking directions for the Sindh government to devolve powers to the local government institutions of the province in view of Article 140-A as well as articles 3, 4, 9, 14, 16, 17, 19, 19A and 25 of the Constitution.

The petition filed by the ruling PTI through its chairman, Imran Khan, and senior leader Asad Umar had challenged the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) adopted by the Sindh Assembly in August 2013. Advocate Ali Zafar will argue the petition on behalf of the ruling party.

The LG polls’ case was fixed before the bench after an order of a two-judge bench last week.

A division bench of the apex court led by Justice Qazi Faez Isa had taken strong exception over non-fixation of the constitution petition against dissolution of local governments in the province of Punjab.

In July last year, a three-member bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, had passed a comprehensive order and issued a notice.

However, the counsel for the petitioner submitted that the registrar did not fix the petition in court until much later and that too before another bench. The petition, he stated, remained pending.

The court noted that election matters must be dealt with on a priority basis. The criticality of the said petition was even greater because it had challenged the Punjab Local Governments Act which had disenfranchised the people and sent 56,000 elected representatives home, and who were substituted by the bureaucracy of the province.

Read more: SC seeks explanation over dissolution of LGs in Punjab

The bench noted that they were informed that the last hearing in the said petition took place on October 26, 2020 and since then, five months had passed but the petition had not been fixed for hearing.

The court, expressing anger, said that by not fixing the petition for hearing, the registrar undoubtedly undermined the people’s perception of the independence of the Supreme Court.

The judgment noted that the SC Registrar should have ensured that the said petition be fixed at the very earliest. However, unnecessary objections to its maintainability were first raised and then it took a few months before the petition was placed for hearing in court.

"The progress of the petition was further delayed when, after issuance of notice by this court, the registrar did not fix it for hearing. If election matters are not decided at the earliest, people lose faith in democratic institutions. The said petition raised questions of immense public importance as the people of the most populous province of the country had been disenfranchised at the local level."

The bench directed the registrar that the said petition be immediately fixed for hearing and further directed him to immediately solicit the orders of the chief justice to have it fixed for hearing either before the bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, or as directed by the chief justice.

After this order, the CJP fixed the matter before his bench.

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