ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has order to restore the Punjab local government after the provincial government dissolved it before the expiry of its term in May 2019. The top court also declared the Section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019 unconstitutional.
During the hearing of the case Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed said that the local government representatives were elected for five years and their tenure cannot be short based on a single notification. He added that laws can be made under Article 140 but the same cannot abolish government institutions.
The chief justice maintained that the government holds a certain stature, be it federal, provincial or local, adding that the law can only alter conditions or improve infrastructure of the government institutions.
During the hearing, apex court judge Justice Ijaz-ul-Hassan stated that all forms of government including federal, provincial and local bodies can only be abolished for a limited period of time.
The SC judge asserted that the provincial government first announced holding re-elections in six months after the dissolution of local bodies. He added that a 21-month extension was then extended to the Council of Common Interests.
The judge argued that the government is contradicting itself by wanting to take the power to the lower level and then abolishing the power itself.
The CJP further sought an explanation from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Insaf (PTI)-led Punjab government concerning the law under which the local bodies were abolished.
Replying to the SC bench, Punjab government’s counsel, Qasim Chauhan, said that the re-election for the local government bodies have been delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
Previously, the top court expressed serious concerns over the dissolution of local government system in Punjab before the expiry of its term and summoned Punjab advocate general to answer queries in this regard.
The court asked the advocate general to explain whether the majority of the members of a provincial assembly had the authority to dissolve the local government when the elected officials are opponents.
“The AG should also tell whether by not holding the local government 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.
In view of this order, the Punjab government submitted its reply wherein it justified its decision to dissolve the local governments of the country’s most populous province before expiry of their term in May 2019.
“The purpose of dissolution of the previous local governments was to ensure a level playing field for all prospective candidates in the upcoming elections under the 2019 Act. The government wants to eliminate political influence of any kind; there was no other way that political parity could be achieved in such context,” the provincial government said in its reply submitted in the Supreme Court.
The reply said the right of the local governments to enjoy a complete term of five years was subject to any other provision of the act. It said the relevant provision in the PLGA 2013, controlling the provision of section 30(1) was contained in section 146 of the PLGA-2013.
It said that the government may, subject to such conditions as may be specified, delegate any of its functions under this Act to an officer subordinate to it except the power to make rules, to suspend or remove a mayor or chairman or to dissolve the local governments. It is learnt that all provinces are reluctant to hold local government elections until official announcement of population census by Council of Common Interest.