SC dismayed over govt’s backtracking on LG elections

Published September 25, 2013
The provincial as well as the federal law officers admitted before court that non-holding of the local government elections after the passage of the 18th amendment amounted to violation of the constitution. — File Photo
The provincial as well as the federal law officers admitted before court that non-holding of the local government elections after the passage of the 18th amendment amounted to violation of the constitution. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: A visibly disturbed Supreme Court on Tuesday wondered whether the federal as well as the provincial governments could carry on in accordance with the law when they were not adhering to the constitutional provisions on the local government elections as envisaged under the 18th amendment.

“Are the elected provincial governments as well as the Islamabad capital territory administration not bound by the constitutional provisions, particularly Articles 5, 32, 38 (a and b) and 140A,” questioned a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

The bench had taken up a 2009 petition of former vice-president cantonment board Quetta, Advocate Raja Rab Nawaz. The petitioner had challenged the non-holding of local government elections in different cantonment boards for the last 14 years.

Article 5 commands for the loyalty to the State and obedience to the constitution and the law, whereas Article 32 suggests the promotion of local government institutions in the country.

Similarly, Article 38 envisages the promotion of social and economic well-being of the people as well as the provision of facilities for work and adequate livelihood with reasonable rest and leisure.

Article 140A specially deals with the local government system. This article asks the provincial governments to devolve the political, administrative and financial responsibilities and authority to the elected representatives of the local government.

On Monday, the Supreme Court had expressed its dismay over backtracking of the federal government on its commitment to holding the local government elections by September 15 in all the 43 cantonment boards. The court was also not happy over the inability of the provincial governments to hold the elections in the near future.

On Tuesday, the apex court ordered the provincial governments as well as the ICT administration to furnish a justification for not holding the local bodies’ polls despite clear directions from the court.

The bench also issued notice to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to explain about its responsibility regarding holding of the local government polls.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the chief ministers, ministers, members National Assembly, senators and members of the provincial assemblies have taken oath under the constitution and, therefore, they are bound to follow the provisions of the constitution,” observed the chief justice, adding it was the obligation of the court to protect, preserve and defend the constitution.

The provincial as well as the federal law officers admitted before court that non-holding of the local government elections after the passage of the 18th amendment amounted to violation of the constitution.

The Supreme Court was particularly not happy with the KP government for its failure to give a specific date for the elections. In one of the previous proceedings, the provincial government had expressed its willingness to hold the elections whenever the court directed it to organise it.

Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja regretted that there was an impression that the KP government would be the first to hold the LG elections but now there was no sign of any election in the province.

When several constitutional provisions relating to the holding of the local bodies elections are not being adhered to, what is the difference between the elected and non-elected governments, questioned the court.

On Monday, Punjab Additional Advocate General Mustafa Ramday had informed the court that the local government elections in the province could not be possible before December 14. The Sindh government stated that it could hold the elections on November 27.

The Balochistan government was not sure about the date since the cabinet in the province was not yet complete whereas the KP had not given any specific date. The case will again be taken up on Thursday.

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