SC seeks centre’s help in provincial finance body award case

Published December 4, 2021
A file photo of the Supreme Court building in Islamabad. — AFP
A file photo of the Supreme Court building in Islamabad. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday sought the federal government’s assistance on a petition pertaining to the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) Award announcement by chief ministers for distribution of financial resources at grassroots level.

In his petition, former parliamentarian Raja Munawar Ahmed urged a three-judge SC bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, to declare the unbridled and unchecked discretionary powers with regard to the allocation of financial resources of the state, ‘encroached’ by the chief ministers of the four provinces, illegal, unconstitutional and against fundamental rights.

Representing the petitioner, senior counsel Chaudhry Faisal Hussain pleaded for the interpretation of relevant rules to restrict the use of discretionary powers by the respective chief ministers with regard to allocations of development funds and distributions on a political basis.

Petition argues local govt is the most deprived tier of the state in terms of funds

The apex court sought assistance of the federal government in the matter while the case would be taken up at a later stage.

According to the petition, the President under Article 156 of the Constitution was mandated to constitute a National Economic Council (NEC) comprising chief executive of the federation, all provinces any other members as nominated by the chief executive.

The petition contended that NEC was an important constitutional body mandated to review overall economic condition of the country, formulate plans in respect of the financial, commercial, social and economic policies and also ensure balanced development and regional equity etc. It contended that the meeting of the NEC was required to be held at least twice a year and was also responsible to submit annual report to the National Assembly and Senate.

It pleaded that the purpose of NEC was to have uniformity in development of urban and rural areas in a coherent and equal manner. But in violation of constitutional mandate, the financial application of the resources were applied disproportionately and even the cities generating substantial funds were being deprived of their due shares in the financial outlay by the provinces.

According to the petition, the local government despite being the third tier of the state in terms of its definition under Article 7 of the Constitution were the most deprived when it comes to the distribution of funds.

The petitioner conceded that he had not made the local government as parties in his petition but would add them through his amended petition.

In an earlier order, Justice Mushir had observed that the questions raised through the petition for the implementation of the constitutional mandate was an obligation of each organ of the state in terms of Article 5 of the Constitution, which commands loyalty to the state and obedience to the Constitution.

Since the financial rights and interest of the citizen were involved, it warranted the consideration by the Supreme Court in terms of Article 184(3) of the Constitution, Justice Mushir had noted.

The petition had sought a direction that the discretionary allocations of development funds at the behest of the chief executives of all the four provinces should be halted forthwith. The court was requested to order the federal government that future NFC award should be ‘balanced, comprehensive’ and should be devised under Article 156(2) through the PFC Award in accordance with the law and Constitution.

The petition had sought a court direction for the respondents to exercise and perform the financial powers and functions strictly in accordance with Article156 (2), read with all enabling provisions of the Constitution and the law.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2021

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