ISLAMABAD: While the Supreme Court has ruled against dissolution of local bodies in Punjab, there seems to be no probability of restoration of the system before its term expires by the end of this year.
The apex court on March 25 through a short order had ordered restoration of local bodies in the province after declaring their dissolution unconstitutional.
The Punjab government had dissolved local bodies under Section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act (PLGA) 2019 though the elections were held under the PLGA 2013 in phases in 2015 and 2016. The tenure of the elected local bodies was five years.
But the tenure of the local bodies came to an abrupt end on July 2 last year after the provincial government amended Section 3(2) of the PLGA by inserting the words “21 months” to replace “five years”.
Law officer defends govt position; elected representatives file contempt plea in SC
The Supreme Court’s detailed judgement issued on July 5 observed that the local government system, when translated into an elected local government for a specified period under the law, could not be dissolved before it completed its tenure. The detailed order declared that the dissolution of the local bodies was in conflict with the constitutional provisions.
The elected representatives of local bodies have expressed concern since the Punjab government appears unwilling to allow them to run the local bodies.
On the other hand, the Punjab government is of the view that since the Supreme Court has not set aside the PLGA 2019, the representatives elected under the Act of 2013 cannot exercise the powers under the new Act.
Advocate General of Punjab Ahmed Awais while talking to Dawn claimed that the provincial government had implemented the apex court’s order regarding restoration of the local bodies.
However, he highlighted some issues related to functioning of the local bodies saying that since the PLGA 2019, which was still intact even after the Supreme Court’s judgement, had introduced drastic changes in the election and functioning of the local bodies, the provincial government could not empower these bodies to resume functioning under the Act of 2013.
Under the Act of 2019, he said, the electoral process had been changed as unlike under the Act of 2013, now a mayor could not be elected through elected representatives (councilors) but the election of his office would be held through general votes.
Changes had been made in the constituencies and district councils abolished, the advocate general added.
According to him, after the expiry of the term of the present local bodies, the system would start properly functioning after next LG elections to be held under the Act of 2019.
“We have filed a review petition before the Supreme Court which is pending before a three-member bench,” he said.
Rawalpindi Mayor Sardar Naseem on the other hand deplored that the Punjab government had not yet issued any notification for revival of the local bodies.
He said that the offices of the elected representatives were still locked and therefore they had held a meeting of the Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation on an open road.
Mr Naseem said that the elected representatives had filed a contempt of court petition before the Supreme Court against the Punjab government and the apex court had issued a notice to the provincial government.
While the legal battle between the LG representatives and the provincial government is ongoing, some chairmen of union councils (UCs) have unlocked their offices on their own.
Mohammad Waqar Dar, chairman of UC 77, Faisal Colony, Chaklala, said that since the provincial government appeared reluctant to reopen the offices, the elected representatives had unlocked their offices.
According to him, under Section 3 of the PLGA 2019, the elected members of local bodies are entitled to complete their constitutional tenure, which would expire on Dec 31 this year.
Referring to the detailed judgement, he said that the apex court had explained that under Article 7 of the Constitution, the local government had been given the status of the “state” and, apparently, it was the third tier of government in the federation.
An elected local government could not be dissolved by the application of Section 3 of the Act of 2019, the judgement said and recalled that Act of 2013 did not give such powers to the provincial government.
Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2021