PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday rejected the petitions of two opposition MPAs against different development schemes in the provincial capital over the alleged discrimination between the ruling and opposition members.
A bench consisting of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Mohammad Naeem Anwar pronounced a short order in that respect after the completion of arguments by both sides and allowed development schemes in all 14 provincial constituencies of Peshawar district.
It also vacated the stay order issued for all development schemes in Peshawar. The stay order have halted all development work in the district since Apr 2020.
Two of the petitions were filed by MPA Khushdil Khan and one by Salahuddin Khan.
PHC also vacates last year’s stay order against Peshawar projects
The MPAs, who belong to the Awami National Party, had accused the government of not giving them due share in development projects.
Advocate General Shumail Ahmad Butt appeared for the provincial government, while advocate Khushdil Khan appeared in person.
Mr Khushdil said the government couldn’t discriminate among various constituencies and should release development funds for all constituencies equally.
He said different meetings of the district development committee (DDC) presided over by Peshawar’s deputy commissioner as its chairman had given approval to certain development schemes as identified by members of the ruling PTI in their respective constituencies.
The lawmaker said tenders of those schemes were also published in different newspapers.
He said the tender notices in question were challenged by him and the court had ordered on Apr 7, 2020, the suspension of action on the notices.
Mr Khushdil pointed out that while the earlier petition was still pending, another DDC meeting chaired by the deputy commissioner was held on July 13, 2020, wherein all schemes challenged in the court were cancelled.
He added that he later learned from notices about invitation for e-tenders published in a newspaper on Sept 11, 2020, by executing agencies, including the additional deputy commissioner (finance and planning) and two municipal officers or administrators of Peshawar Town II and IV regarding the schemes challenged in the earlier petition.
The MPA argued that development fund and schemes were to be approved by the district development advisory committee (DDAC) to which the relevant lawmakers were members and not by the DDC as those belonged to the ‘Peshawar Uplift Programme’ falling under the provincial ADP.
Advocate general Shumail Butt argued that the MPAs didn’t have direct constitutional mandate to decide or recommend schemes after the Supreme Court judgement in the Raja Pervez Ashraf case.
He added that the provincial cabinet had already approved the ADP Policy 2019-23 in light of the certain directives given by the high court and that the policy was also okayed by the high court.
“Under the new policy, past practices of allocating funds to the chief minister, ministers and MPAs were shunned. The chief minister can no longer issue directives for development schemes,” he said.
The advocate general argued that after the passage of the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act and KP Local Government Act, 2013, the DDAC didn’t have any role about development schemes and even the high court had already declared the DDAC to be merely a titular recommendatory body.
He added that non-compliance with the DDAC Act was inconsequential as held by the court in earlier judgments on petitions of other lawmakers.
Mr Butt argued that raising questions about budget were political questions best left to executive policy and not to be interfered in writ jurisdiction by high court.
He said the budget-making and grant of development schemes was an executive function of the government, so they were not justiciable or couldn’t be subjected to judicial review.
The advocate general said the petitioners could raise the matter on the floor of the provincial assembly and could debate it there.
He added that the deputy commissioner had the authority under the KP Civil Governance Act, 2020, to oversee integrated development in the district.
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2021