SC issues notices in LGs contempt case

Notes that Punjab LG representatives not interested in resuming their work


Hasnaat Malik May 29, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

Instead of taking the Punjab government to task for not implementing the Supreme Court’s March 25 order for restoration of the local governments (LGs) in the province, Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed has noted that LG representatives are themselves not interested to resume their work.

“If the provincial government does not allow them to enter their offices then they should hold their meetings at private residences or public grounds,” Justice Gulzar said on Friday while heading a three-judge bench hearing a contempt plea filed by the LG representatives.

“Why the LG representatives want a red carpet [to be rolled out for them] by the [provincial] government?” he asked.  During the hearing, Justice (retd) Ibad-ur-Rehman Lodhi, a former Islamabad High Court judge, appeared on behalf of Rawalpindi Mayor Sardar Nasim.

Read: Punjab govt finally challenges SC order on LGs

The counsel highlighted how the Punjab government is violating the SC order regarding restoration of the LGs in the province. “The government has even filed criminal cases against some LG representatives.”

However, the CJ noted that the LG representatives are not interested in resuming their work. “They quietly sat after the SC issued an order for the Punjab government,” he said.

The bench, however, also issued notice to Punjab Advocate General Ahmad Awais over the contempt petition before adjourning the hearing till the end of the summer vacation.

Interestingly, the Punjab AG was already present in the courtroom.

A number of LG representatives – who were present in the courtroom – were shocked by the SC’s decision to adjourn the hearing till after the summer vacations. They were also surprised that the court – instead of giving a tough time to the Punjab government – questioned their conduct.

A senior official in the Punjab government termed the Friday hearing as great relief for the Punjab government. He told The Express Tribune that earlier Punjab AG Awais was facing harsh criticism after the SC on March 25 restored the LGs.

“One section within the Punjab government had even started a campaign for replacing the AG. However, the Friday hearing is a big relief for him,” he added.

On May 5, 2019, around 58,000 LG representatives were sent packing years before completion of their term after the provincial governor signed the Punjab Local Government Act (PLGA) 2019.  About 85% of these LG representatives belonged to the PML-N and their term was set to end in December 2021.

Read more: ECP seeks delimitation rules from Punjab for LG polls

The LG representatives later moved the apex court whose three-judge bench, presided over by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar, on March 25 passed a short order, restoring the LGs.

The LGs representatives later approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) for getting the SC’s March 25 order implemented. However, the LHC refused to serve notices to the respondents until the SC issued its detailed judgment.

Later, the counsels for LG representatives withdrew their petition from the LHC and filed a contempt petition in the apex court.  However, a detailed judgment regarding restoration of the LG is still awaited.

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