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LHC seeks Punjab govt’s reply on pleas against new LG system

10 May, 2019

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The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday sought a reply form provincial government for regular hearing against the recently passed Punjab Local Government Act, 2019.

A single-member bench of Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh also referred the matter to a larger bench for adjudication, since the case involved complex constitutional questions of far-reaching significance.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders Ahmad Iqbal Chaudhry, Narowal district council chairman and others, including Azhar Leghari from DG Khan and mayors of Lahore and Faisalabad, have challenged the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019, terming dissolution of local governments in mid-tenure as a blatant violation of Article 140A of the constitution.

Appearing on behalf of the petitioners before the bench on Thursday, advocates Ahsan Bhoon, Umer Gillani and Usama Khawar Ghuman argued that the dissolution of local governments in mid-tenure was a sheer violation of the constitutional provisions that protect creation of autonomous local governments.

The counsels contended that appointment of bureaucrats as solo administrators of districts amounted to a complete rollback of the devolution process, which was against the purview of articles 32 and 140A of the constitution.

The counsel for Ahmad Iqbal argued that since 1972, the basic legal framework for Punjab’s local government had been re-invented by the Provincial Assembly 10 times, and added that local governments had never been allowed to complete their tenure or to function independently in the past. Ahsan Bhoon stated the local bodies elections were held on the directives of the Supreme Court. He termed the new local government system as “an attempt on part of the provincial government to change faces”.

Gillani contended that consequently, this third tier of the federation had not been able to develop institutionally, whereas Article 140A was inserted in the constitution in 2001 to solve this very problem. At various points during the proceedings, which lasted more than two hours, Justice Sheikh expressed annoyance over the provincial government’s decision to depose elected leaders, while a new date for the elections was yet to be announced. Later, the case was adjourned until next week.

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