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September 24, 2020

Devolving LB powers to federal, provincial governments unlawful: SC

Top Story

September 24, 2020

Devolving LB powers to federal, provincial governments unlawful: SC

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday set aside the objections of the Registrar’s Office over a constitutional petition filed by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) seeking directions for the Sindh government to devolve powers to the local government bodies.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, heard identical petitions filed by MQM, PTI, PML-N leaders seeking empowerment of the local bodies.

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

Barrister Ali Zafar, counsel for the PTI, appeared before the court and submitted that they had filed the constitutional petition; however, the Registrar’s Office of the apex court raised objections to it. He said that the petition was of very much importance hence it should also beheard with the identical petitions.

Meanwhile, the chief justice overruled the objections of the Registrar’s Office and directed the office to register the petition with other identical ones and issued notices to respondents, including the Sindh government as well as the attorney general and Sindh advocate general.

The court also directed counsels for all the petitioners to prepare and submit their respective synopsis and formulations on the next date of hearing and adjourned further hearing until 2nd week of October.

During the course of hearing, Asad Umar Federal Minister for Planning, former Minister for Privatization Danial Aziz, former interior minister and senior leader PML-N Ahsan Iqbal and Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar were present in the courtroom.

In its petition the ruling PTI had 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 to be ultra vires the Constitution, void ab initio and of no legal effect.

It had further prayed the apex court to pass such directions for the purposes of devolution of powers to local government institutions in order to fulfill the requirements of Article 140-A of the Constitution as well as articles 3, 4, 9, 14, 16, 17, 19, 19A and 25 besides praying to pass directions to the respondents to release all the monies due and payable to Karachi Metropolitan Corporation including the release of its share of Octroi ZilaTax (OZT) along with markup and additional markup.

Earlier, Barrister Salahuddin, counsel for MQM, argued before the court and contended that their petition relates to the powers delegated to the local government as well as the provincial government, adding that the manifestos of all the political parties had clearly mentioned devolution of power to the local levels but in fact such powers are not granted. In 2013, the counsel contended that powers of local bodies were taken away through a legislation made in Sindh.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan, a member of the bench, observed that both the federal and provincial governments were reluctant to devolve powers to the local government institutions. When in power, no one favours transferring power to the local level but they talk about it while in opposition, Justice Ahsan remarked, adding that there is no coordination between the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in the federal capital and Islamabad Municipal Corporation.

Barrister Salahuddin submitted that if legislation is good it has long lasting effects. The chief justice remarked that in Umar Tawana case, details have been delineated about powers. To render local bodies’ powers to provincial or federal governments are against Article 140. Constitution of local bodies was not the matter of liking or disliking but a vital thing.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed that people were dying in the province of Sindh due to flood and in most parts of the city, water entered the houses of dwellers but no one from the municipality was found on roads either to clear the roads from water or to extend timely service to the people.

Thousands of workers were appointed in the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) who were drawing salaries of billions of rupees but they could not be found anywhere for rescuing the people. They were ghost employees drawing salaries in billions, the CJP remarked, adding that there was a time when they had seen municipal workers cleaning roads at midnight. “Where have such people gone”, the CJP questioned.

The counsel for MQM contended that the solution of problems of citizens must be with the local counsellor, adding that if heaps of garbage is found near house, he could contact the local counsellor easily but could not access the chief minister. In the present scenario, the powers of the local counsellor have been delegated to the chief ministers. Meanwhile, the court asked all the counsels for the petitioners to submit their respective synopsis and formulations and adjourned further hearing until second week of October.