Supreme Court to take up petitions on LG affairs on 23rd

Updated 21 Sep 2020

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In its petition, the MQM-P had re­­quested the Supreme Court to wrest the municipal control of Karachi back under its elected mayor Waseem Akhtar, who has now completed his term. — AFP/File
In its petition, the MQM-P had re­­quested the Supreme Court to wrest the municipal control of Karachi back under its elected mayor Waseem Akhtar, who has now completed his term. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court will take up on Wednesday a set of petitions, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s plea seeking empowerment and autonomy of local government institutions in Sindh.

In addition to the MQM-P’s petition, a three-judge SC bench comprising Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel will take up petitions, which were moved by Asad Ali Khan, who is seeking a declaration that the Punjab Local Government Act 2019 is repugnant to Article 140-A of the Constitution, Daniyal Aziz, who has pleaded that the Punjab Local Government Act 2019 and the Punjab Village Punchayats and Neighbourhood Councils Act 2019 are ultra vires to the Constitution, and a PTI plea seeking a declaration that Sections 74 and 75 of the Sindh Local Government Act 2013 and Section 18 of the Sindh Building Control Ordinance are against the Constitution.

In its petition, the MQM-P had re­­quested the Supreme Court to wrest the municipal control of Karachi back under its elected mayor Waseem Akhtar, who has now completed his term.

In addition, the MQM-P also requested the court to order the authorities concerned to release Rs29.36 billion as the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) share of Octroi Zila Tax along with mark-up, etc.

Petitions include MQM-P’s plea seeking empowerment of local bodies in Sindh

Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem had filed the petition on behalf of the MQM-P.

The petition pleaded that in view of political realities, it was imperative that the Supreme Court pass corrective orders so that the local government institutions could be empowered. Since 2008, Rs1,227bn had been earmarked by the Sindh government under the annual development programmes (ADPs), but hardly any funds from the ADPs had ever been allocated for urban Sindh and those earmarked for rural areas of the province had been eaten away, the petition alleged.

The PPP government had on Sept 16, 2013 legislated the Sindh Local Government Act 2013 to take over the devolved departments by amending sections 74 and 75 of the Act in violation of Article 140-A of the Constitution when municipal functions could not be allocated to the provincial government or any other body or authority under its control, the petition argued.

Thus the provincial government abused the 2013 Act by making a parallel statute, rules and regulations to usurp the powers of the local governments, the petition alleged.

It sought a directive from the apex court for the departments to immediately release due share of funds to the local governments of Sindh, particularly the KMC, for the period from 2008 till date along with mark-up, the ADP funds, etc.

The secretaries of the cabinet division and finance, chief secretary and local government secretary of Sindh, Sindh Assembly, provincial law department and the PPP has been cited as respondents in the petition.

The petition said that the respondents had not released due share of funds to the local governments, particularly the KMC, from 2008 till date and thus they were liable to release such funds with mark-up, etc.

The provincial finance commission had no power to increase or decrease the amount of 0.66 per cent of the net proceeds of the divisible pool of the federal government, the petition argued, adding that on the basis of the National Finance Commission Award of 2009-10, the KMC was within its rights to claim Rs29.39bn as arrears from the provincial government, which had been withheld without any jurisdiction, with mark-up and additional mark-up.

The petition argued that the functions of building control i.e. construction laws and town planning were municipal functions and ought to be devolved to the local governments. But under the 2013 Act, these functions have been vested on the departments working under the Sindh government.

Similarly, matters pertaining to land control, planning, leasing and other aspects of land, including land development, were also municipal functions and, therefore, should be devolved to the local governments, the petition argued.

It requested the court to declare as illegal and without jurisdiction Section 3 of the KDA (Revival and Amending) Act 2016, Section 74 and 75 of the 2013 Act and similar dispensations in other laws.

The petition also asked the court to declare that the mayor of Karachi was empowered to exercise the authority under Section 4 of the Sindh Buildings Control Ordinance 1979.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2020