ISLAMABAD: The country’s top court has issued notices to all respondents over the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s plea against the Lahore High Court’s verdict on delimitation of union councils (UC) in Rawalpindi Division.
In the appeal filed in the Supreme Court, the ECP has raised questions about interpretation of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013, and the sustainability of the verdict.
Justice Mehmood Ahmed Bhatti of the LHC Rawalpindi bench on October 1 declared void the delimitation of over 37 UCs of the division. The single bench gave the verdict on identical petitions filed by 47 individuals against the delimitation.
The ECP has challenged the verdict, making the Punjab government, the federal joint census commissioner of the Statistics Division, Rawalpindi Local Government Assistant Director Haroon Abbasi, UC Murree former nazim Sohrab Ahmed Abbasi, Murree Tehsil Municipal Committee member, and others as respondents.
The three judge bench of the apex court headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday issued notices to all the respondents and adjourned the hearing for a week.
During the hearing, Munir Ahmad Paracha appeared on behalf of ECP and stated that the high court has “wrongly” recorded a finding that despite a bar in section 10-A of the act, the court has the jurisdiction to review the delimitation of a union council.
He also said the LHC has “misinterpreted” the provisions of chapter II and III, and “misunderstood” the provisions of section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act 2013.
He requested the bench to set aside the high court ruling so local government polls could be held on time. However, the bench told him that they would give decision after hearing the respondents.
Likewise, the ECP in its appeal has also contended that the court did not take into consideration the provision of Article 225 of the Constitution, the precedent law and section 38 (1) of the Punjab LG Act.
The court failed to properly comprehend the scheme of election prescribed by the act, the ECP said.
The ECP, in support of questions raised, maintained that the Punjab LG Act was promulgated on August 23, 2013. In the original scheme, delimitation was to be conducted by the provincial government. However, the court interpreted Article 140-A of the Constitution, and held that “election” includes “delimitation” of the constituencies. As a result of the judgment, two amendments were introduced to the LG Act.
The appellant further contended that section(s) 6 to 10 were relevant for present purposes.
As per section 6, the government shall, through a notification, divide a district into rural and urban areas, demarcate and declare a local area consisting of a metropolitan corporation, district council, municipal corporation, and municipal committee, depending on the population of the urban area.
Explaining section 8, which deals with delimitation, the ECP has maintained that the power lies only with the government to determine the number of UCs in a metropolitan or municipal corporation, district council and wards of a municipal committee. The ECP further contended that it was the commission that should delimit the UCs and the wards.
The judgment drew a wrong inference from section 3 (1) (d) of the act and misinterpreted section 10-A of the act to hold that there is no bar for court to review the delimitation of a UC after the announcement of election schedule, the appellant says. The provision was added to end uncertainty in the election process, the plea says.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2015.