Local govt system: SC not to interfere in legislators’ powers

October 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed Monday said the Sindh government had the power to settle the issue of devolution of powers to the local bodies and the Supreme Court could...

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed Monday said the Sindh government had the power to settle the issue of devolution of powers to the local bodies and the Supreme Court could not interfere in the affairs of Sindh province and also ask the other federating units to implement Article 140-A of the Constitution.

The chief justice gave this observation while heading a three-member bench of the apex court hearing a set of identical petitions filed by the MQM, the PTI and PML-N seeking empowerment of local bodies as per Article 140-A of the Constitution.

Justice Gulzar said the apex court would not become a part of the dispute between the local government and Sindh government. He said it was the mandate of the high court concerned to judge whether the provincial laws were in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.

How the court can issue a verdict without hearing the viewpoints of all the provincial governments that has to be implemented all over the country, remarked the chief

justice.

Addressing the counsel for Sindh, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan asked if he wanted the apex court to declare the Sindh Local Government Act ultra vires of the Constitution and declare it null and void. He said the other provinces were not party to the instant dispute at all and the court could not attend to such petty issues.

The federal government Monday requested the Supreme Court to set guidelines for all provinces, ensuring devolution of powers to the local governments as per Article 140-A of the Constitution.

After hearing the MQM counsel, the court reserved its verdict on the petition but asked him as well as the other counsel for the petitioners and Advocate General Sindh Salman Talibuddin to submit their written arguments in the next hearing.

Appearing on notice, Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Javed submitted that he was not representing any party to the instant matter but the apex court should decide the matter, as it could resolve several problems confronting the local governments.

He requested the Supreme Court to set guidelines, acceptable to all the provinces adding that so far the court had not set rules pertaining to the functioning of local governments.

He requested the apex court to set guidelines for all the provinces pertaining to devolution of powers to local government institutions in order to fulfill the requirements of Article 140-A of the Constitution.

The AG contended that the provincial government could not make legislation repugnant to the law and the Constitution as well as usurping the rights of minority parties.

Earlier, Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed, counsel for the MQM, through the video link from the Karachi Registry, contended that their petition was related to the powers delegated to the local governments as well as the provincial government, adding that the manifestos of all political parties had clearly mentioned devolution of powers to the local level, but in fact such powers had not been granted.

He submitted that building control, water supply, local transport, solid waste as well as sewerage, which were to be taken care of by the Municipal Corporation Karachi, had been taken over by the provincial government.

He said local governments in the province were only assigned the task to look after the matters pertaining to parks and libraries. He contended that all powers taken over by the provincial governments regarding such amenities should be transferred to the local governments/councils as guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 140-A.

He pleaded with the court to strike down Sections 74 and 75 of the Act of 2013 as well as Section 18 of the Sindh Buildings Control Ordinance 1979 to be ultra vires and void ab initio. Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed that the mayor of Karachi was witnessed inaugurating public transport several times but the buses disappeared the very next day.

It seems the mayor had failed to deliver, so the powers were taken back from him, he said. “Whether you are entitled to demand these powers in view of your performance,” the CJP inquired from the MQM counsel.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen observed that the court had held that implementation of Article 140-A was compulsory, hence the province had to implement Article 140-A. Meanwhile, Salman Talibuddin, Advocate General Sindh, also through the video link, pleaded the court to dismiss the instant petitions, saying as per Article 140-A of the Constitution, it was up to the provincial assembly as to which powers it could give to the provincial government and local bodies.

Meanwhile, the court reserved the verdict on the petition of the MQM and asked the counsel for other parties to submit their written synopses and arguments besides asking the advocate general Sindh to assist it and adjourned the hearing for date-in-office (indefinite period).

The PTI, the MQM, the PML-N and others had challenged the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) seeking directions for the provincial government to devolve powers to local bodies in the province in view of Article 140-A as well as Articles 3, 4, 9, 14, 16, 17, 19, 19-A and 25 of the Constitution.

They had also prayed the apex court to declare Sections 74 and 75 of the Act of 2013 as well as Section 18 of the Sindh Buildings Control Ordinance 1979 ultra vires of the Constitution and void abinitio.



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