SC seeks Punjab reply on contempt plea in local govts case

Published May 29, 2021
A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by the chief justice of Pakistan, took up the contempt petition moved by 15 chairmen of different district councils and mayors. — Online/File
A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by the chief justice of Pakistan, took up the contempt petition moved by 15 chairmen of different district councils and mayors. — Online/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the advocate general for Punjab on a contempt petition for not implementing its March 25 order for the restoration of local government institutions in the province, after their dissolution had been declared unconstitutional.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by the chief justice of Pakistan, took up the contempt petition moved by 15 chairmen of different district councils and mayors.

The apex court had ordered the Punjab government more than two months ago to immediately restore the local government institutions, after declaring Section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act (PLGA) 2019, whereby the local bodies had been dissolved, ultra vires to the Constitution.

The court had further ruled that the local governments as existing in the Punjab before PLGA’s Section 3 promulgation stood restored and they should complete their term in accordance with the law.

Then the court took up a petition, moved by one Asad Ali Khan through his counsel Mohammad Nawazish Ali Pirzada, challenging the dissolution of the local governments with the plea that elected members of the local governments were entitled to complete their constitutional term that was to expire on Dec 31, 2021.

CJP asks councillors, mayors what they have done for holding meetings except filing petitions

On Friday, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed wondered why members of the local government institutions were waiting for the red carpet treatment when they could have held their commencement meetings even if they had not been allowed to enter the premises.

The observation came when Advocate Ibadur Rehman Lodhi, while representing the petitioners, regretted that members of the local government institutions were not being allowed to enter office premises for meetings.

Apparently not pleased over the situation, the bench observed what they had done other than filing contempt of court petitions when they were elected representatives of people. Had they issued letters to the municipal officers for making arrangements for the meeting of the local government institutions.

The court, however, postponed further proceedings till the end of summer vacation, indicating that the matter is expected to be taken up sometime in September.

In the contempt petition, the petitioner pleaded that the respondent government (Punjab) under the Constitution was duty bound to entrust the transition of powers smoothly and without any interruption to the petitioners and other members of the local governments.

But the provincial government was doing everything it could to prevent the petitioners from taking charge of their offices and exercising powers conferred upon them under the law, regretted the petitioner.

According to the petition, members of different local government institutions were not being allowed to take control of their offices and were being hampered from taking charge of the work and most evidently the provincial government was still exercising control over the local governments through administrators appointed under the May 4, 2019 notification.

While the 2019 notification has lost its effect after the March 25 order of the Supreme Court, the Punjab government has let the notification to hold the field and thus is guilty of committing contempt of court under Article 204 of the Constitution, accodring to the petition.

It regretted that the provincial government was deliberately discontinuing the local governments created under Article 140-A of the Constitution and hence was abrogating the mandatory article of the Constitution, which was alarming and raised great concern towards the evolutionary process in legal history and jurisprudence.

The petitioners nominated the chief secretary of Punjab and the secretary of local government and community development department, Noorul Amin Mengal as respondents in the contempt petition.

Review petition

Meanwhile, the Punjab government also filed a review petition against the March 25 short order, the detail reasons of which are still awaited, that was not taken up for hearing on Friday.

In its review petition, the Punjab government had contended that there would be a huge financial implication of the apex court order regarding the PLGA section in terms of its maintenance and disbursement of the funds.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2021

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