LAHORE: Three opposition members of the Punjab Assembly on Saturday moved the Lahore High Court against frequent ‘misuse’ of powers by the governor to promulgate ordinances.
PML-N’s lawmakers Azma Bokhari and Samiullah Khan and PPP’s leader in the provincial assembly Syed Hassan Murtaza also challenged the ordinances issued by Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar through a constitutional petition filed through Advocate Usama Khawar Ghumman.
It was argued in the petition that the governor on the advice of the provincial government promulgated more than 16 ordinances since the start of 2019. It said the governor, under Article 128 of the Constitution, was empowered to promulgate ordinances which were a form of temporary legislation subject to two expressly stipulated conditions: (a) when the provincial assembly is not in session and (b) if circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action.
The petition said, “Article 128 represents a narrow exception to the general procedure for bringing about legislation. A bare reading of the text shows that the power to legislate conferred on the Governor by Article 128 is meant only for dealing with emergencies and not handling routine matters.”
“Pakistan is a representative and deliberative democracy,” said the petition that added that the people of Punjab elected the MPAs to represent them in the assembly and legislate on their behalf.
It argued that the provincial government rushed through the impugned ordinances as it did not want to meaningfully engage with the opposition in the assembly. “This represents a completely unconstitutional and authoritarian approach to government,” said the petition. It added that these ordinances did not represent a bona fide exercise of the power conferred by Article 128.
The petition further argued that the government couldn’t be allowed to bulldoze legislative agenda of the petitioners using emergency governor’s powers to promulgate ordinances and subvert the provincial assembly.
It asked the court to declare the impugned ordinances issued by the government unconstitutional, mala fide, and ultra vires of Article 128 of the Constitution. It also urged the court to declare that the governor’s power to promulgate ordinances could be used to bring about such legislation only when the government needed to respond to an emergency situation such as war, famine, epidemic or rebellion.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2019