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LHC declares new delimitations in Punjab illegal

01 January, 2014

LAHORE: A full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday declared the entire delimitation exercise carried out by the Punjab government for holding the local bodies' elections illegal and ruled that it was the prerogative of the Election Commission of Pakistan to conduct delimitations.

Through its short verdict, the bench, headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, struck down Sections 8 & 9 of the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 (PLGA-13) by holding it contrary to the Constitution.Justice Muhammad Farrukh Irfan Khan and Justice Attir Mahmood were the other members of the bench.

The bench also held that the Punjab government should do the needful to bring the process of delimitation within the purview of the ECP.Under Section 8 & 9 of the PLGA-13, the provincial government had the exclusive right to conduct delimitation for the local bodies' election.

Section 8 (3) states: "The government shall, in the prescribed manner, delimit a union council into six wards for the election of members on general seats and into two wards, consisting of three adjoining wards of the union council, for the election of the two seats reserved for women."

Section 9 (1) states: "The government shall, in the prescribed manner, delimit a municipal committee into wards for election of members of the municipal committee on general seats."The bench, after going through the record about delimitation, remarked that the process of delimitations was completed only within 11 days which is astonishing.

"It is not a Radcliffe Award which defined the boundaries of two countries with the stroke of a pen," the bench remarked.The counsel for about 400 petitioners, challenging the delimitations, submitted that delimitations were completed by officials of the district government who did it while keeping in view the interests of the ruling party.

Appearing before the bench, an additional advocate general submitted that the delimitations were completed according to Section 8 & 9 of the PLGA-13. He said already a division bench of the LHC had declared these provisions of the act legal. He requested the court to dismiss the petitions for having no legal value.

The petitioners submitted that according to Article 140-A (2) of the Constitution, after 18th Amendment, the election commission is empowered to hold elections of the local bodies and do delimitations in this regard. They said the provincial government had nothing to do with delimitations. They said section 7, 8 and 9 of the PLGA-13 are against the constitution. Quoting a judgment of the SC in Workers Party case, they said that the SC had held that holding free and fair election is the duty of the ECP. They said in this regard, the election commission has unlimited powers and only the election commission can do delimitations.

While hearing arguments against delimitations, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah remarked that if delimitations were not completed according to the law, how free and fair elections were possible.

Acting Advocate General Mustafa Ramday submitted that provincial government was empowered to do delimitations as in 2000 the provincial government did it. He said delimitations were not part of the elections and it is a responsibility of the government to facilitate the election commission in this regard.

Muhammad Azhar Siddique, counsel for one of the petitioners, said the election commissioner also issued schedule of elections in haste without hearing all objections against delimitations.

After hearing the arguments at length, the bench reserved the judgment and after some time announced a short order wherein it declared Section 8 and 9 of the PLGA-13 against the Constitution. It directed the election commission to fulfill its responsibility regarding the delimitations so that election could be held on time. Detailed judgment would be announced later.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Minister for Law and Local Government Rana Sanaullah Tuesday said the decision of the court on delimitations would be honoured.

In a statement, he said as per the court decision, a new legislation would be required for new delimitation which needed at least six months to one year.

He said it would have to be reviewed if delimitation based on the census of 1998 was comprehensive and if it was decided to hold a new census, local bodies' elections would be delayed further one to one-and-a-half year. He said if the court decision was implemented, local bodies elections could not be held on January 30, 2014.

Passing the Local Bodies Act as per directions of the Election Commission, the administration was given authority of delimitation. He said the Election Commission had shown inability for delimitation due to limited manpower. Later, on a writ a divisional bench of the Lahore High Court, headed by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial, upheld the authority of delimitation but the decision had been changed.

He said as per the Supreme Court decision, the Punjab government was discharging its responsibility for holding the local bodies' elections on January 30.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Minister for Law and Local Government Rana Sanaullah Tuesday said the decision of the court on delimitations would be honoured.In a statement, he said as per the court decision, a new legislation would be required for new delimitation which needed at least six months to one year.

He said it would have to be reviewed if delimitation based on the census of 1998 was comprehensive and if it was decided to hold a new census, local bodies' elections would be delayed further one to one-and-a-half year. He said if the court decision was implemented, local bodies elections could not be held on January 30, 2014.

Passing the Local Bodies Act as per directions of the Election Commission, the administration was given authority of delimitation. He said the Election Commission had shown inability for delimitation due to limited manpower. He said as per the Supreme Court decision, the Punjab government was discharging its responsibility for holding the local bodies' elections on January 30.

End.

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