KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Thursday issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan and other respondents on a petition filed by the Jamaat-i-Islami against an amendment to the Sindh Local Government Act 2013 that would pave the way for unelected persons to become mayor/deputy mayor.
The Karachi chief of Jamaat-i-Islami, Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, petitioned the SHC on June 7 asking the court to declare the amendment ultra vires to the Constitution, without lawful authority and of no legal effect.
The counsel for the petitioner moved the application seeking urgent hearing of the petition as the election for the mayor and deputy mayor of Karachi was scheduled for June 15.
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed took up the matter for hearing and remarked that it was an issue of urgent nature.
Party opposes change aimed at allowing an unelected person to become mayor or deputy mayor
While allowing the application, the bench issued notices to the respondents and advocate general of Sindh for June 13.
The petitioner is the elected chairman of the union committee in North Nazimabad and also the JI candidate for the post of Karachi mayor.
The PPP has fielded unelected Murtaza Wahab for the same office after the amendment in question.
The JI petitioner has argued that the impugned amendment has infringed upon his rights.
The lawyer for the petitioner submitted that last month the provincial assembly had amended Section 3 of the SLGA allowing unelected persons to become mayor/deputy mayor and chairman/vice chairman of a district municipal corporation or district council and a notification in this regard was issued on May 24.
He asserted that the amendment in question was illegal on account that representative democracy was premised on vesting of executive authority in persons who were elected representatives.
The counsel further contended that under the scheme of un-amended law, a person would be considered for the post of mayor/chairman if such a person had gone through the rigors of electoral process, including declaration of assets and an opportunity for people to object to the candidature of such person.
He asserted that the impugned amendment was made and deemed to have taken force on and from December 31, 2021 whereby a past and closed electoral process had been infringed upon by making an allowance for an unelected person to be elected to the post of chairman or mayor.
The same infringes upon the right of petitioner to be dealt with in accordance with law i.e. the law that was in force at the time of conducting electoral process, the lawyer maintained.
While impleading the ECP, province of Sindh through provincial cabinet and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation as respondents, the petitioner argued that the impugned amendment was geared toward the ad hoc and recurrent election/appointment of persons on the posts of mayor/chairman while very intention of the Constitution was that power and authority have to be exercised through chosen representatives.
JI, MQM-P pleas
The same bench on Thursday granted time to the provincial law officer to file comments on the petitions of JI and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan about empowerment of local government.
The advocate general of Sindh sought further time for filing para-wise comments on behalf of respondents and undertook that the needful would be ensured before the next hearing with advance copies to the lawyers for petitioners.
The bench adjourned the hearing for a date to be fixed after summer vacation.
Both the parties had petitioned the SHC last year challenging the Sindh Local Government (Amendment) Act, 2021 and also sought implementation of Supreme Court judgement on the empowerment of local government in Sindh.
Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2023