CJP asks Sindh govt to explain factors determining constituencies

Chief justice remarks provincial govt has authority to legislate laws for the local elections, court cannot change it


Our Correspondent August 17, 2022
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Tuesday asked the Sindh government to explain the factors which determine the constituencies of the local government in the province.

Hearing a petition, filed by Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and others, Chief Justice Bandial observed that the difference in population of some union committees was more than 100%.

A three-member bench, headed by the chief justice and including Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ayesha A Malik, took up the MQM-P leaders’ petition against the Sindh government, pertaining to the delimitation of constituencies for the local bodies election in the province.

During the proceedings, Advocate Khalid Jawed Khan, counsel for the local bodies representatives, who were elected unopposed, told the court that the delimitation of constituencies could not be done on the basis of mathematical principles.

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He said that if the MQM's argument was accepted, the constituencies of the National and provincial assemblies in the entire country would be affected. He added that the delimitation of the constituencies was held under the same principle in 2015, when a mayor of MQM was elected.

The chief justice said that legislation regarding local bodies elections was the authority of the provincial government but some errors were visible during the implementation of the provincial law. However, he added that court could only point out the error and not change the law.

The chief justice observed that the difference in population of some union committees was more than 100%. He asked could the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ignore these errors and hold delimitation of constituencies on its own.

Justice Shah said that the power regarding delimitation of constituencies was given to the ECP in one clause and to the government in the other. The chief justice asked could the number of union committees increase during the delimitation of constituencies.

Dr Farogh Naseem, the counsel for the MQM, said that the number of constituencies could be increased or decreased during the delimitation process. Justice Shah said that the Sindh government had created a structure of local bodies in the law, whether the ECP could change that structure through the delimitation?

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The chief justice said that the ECP could do as much as it had authority. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) local government Act laid down the procedure for the number of union committees, he added. Dr Naseem said that the Sindh government had not clarified any procedure for the number of committees.

Advocate Khalid Jawed said that eight people live in a 110-yard house and three people live in a thousand-yard house in Karachi. While forming a union committee, the ECP considered not only the population but also the basic facilities in the constituency, he added.

He added that everything was not proportionate to the population in Pakistan as the largest province in terms of area had the least population. Justice Malik asked about the basis on which the Sindh government had made the delimitation of constituencies.

If the demarcations were transparent, the delimitation of constituencies would not be controversial, she said. Advocate Khalid Jawed replied that the Sindh High Court (SHC) gave guidelines for demarcations in 2016, which were being followed.

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The MQM had challenged the Section 10(1) of the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) before the last local bodies elections, the lawyer said. He added the SHC then rejected the MQM's plea as the 2015 law was challenged immediately before the elections. The MQM had not challenged Section 10(1) again in the Supreme Court till date, he added.

The chief justice said that the court wanted to listen to the Sindh government on this issue. The additional advocate general of Sindh replied that he would adopt Khalid Jawed's arguments to a large extent, adding that he would submit all documents before the court on Wednesday (today).

National Assembly Member (MNA) Fehmida Mirza also appeared before the bench and said that she had been elected from Badin for five times. Thatta and Badin was in a very bad condition, she added. She said that her vote was shifted from Badin to Karachi despite being elected from Thatta and Badin.

The chief justice, while addressing Mirza, said that her arguments would be heard tomorrow (today) and adjourned the hearing of the case.

 (WITH INPUT FROM APP)

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