Peshawar High court reserves verdict on pleas against LG law changes

November 02, 2021

A larger bench of the Peshawar High Court reserved its judgement on three petitions filed by opposition leaders challenging the May 2019 drastic changes to the provincial local government law, which included the abolition of the province’s district tier of government.

Justices Roohul Amin Khan, Ijaz Anwar, and Syed Arshad Ali heard arguments from provincial advocate general Shumail Ahmad Butt and petitioners’ counsel, including Qazi Jawad Ahsanullah, Khushdil Khan, Ghulam Mohyuddin Malik, and others.

Akram Khan Durrani, the leader of the opposition in the KP Assembly, and parliamentary leaders Sardar Hussain Babak of the Awami National Party, Sardar Mohammad Yousaf of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Sher Azam Wazir of the Pakistan People’s Party, and Lutfur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl filed a joint petition.

The petitioners asked the court to rule that the Khyber Pakhtun khuwa Local Government (Amendment) Act, 2019, which made significant changes to the KP Local Government Act, 2013, violated the Constitution, specifically Articles 4, 8, 9, 17, 25, 32, 37, and 140-A.Another petition was filed jointly by Jamaat-i-Islami provincial chief Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan and MPA Inayatullah Khan, who claimed that the purpose of the contested LG law amendments was to devolve some powers of the district council and district nazim to the tehsil government while returning the rest to the government.They went on to say that the amended Act aimed to return control of many devolved departments to the provincial government and to eliminate the district tier of the local government system.

Himayatullah Mayar, the president of the Local Council Association (LCA) and a former district nazim of Mardan, filed the third petition.

The petitioner asked the court to rule that the elimination of the district tier of local government in the province violated the law and Article 140-A of the Constitution, which guaranteed the delegation of political, administrative, and financial responsibility and authority to elected representatives of local governments.He asked the court to rule that the province cannot take away the financial authority and responsibility of local governments under Article 140-A of the Constitution.

According to Qazi Jawad, Chapters III and IV of the parent Local Government Act (LGA) 2013 were deleted by the contested Amendment Act. He went on to say that by removing the two chapters, the government had effectively demolished the entire edifice of a representative and elected system of local government at the district level. According to the lawyer, even if local government existed at the district level as a result of this amendment, it would not be elected, representative, or even political, and there would be no administrative or financial control of the people in the said local government at the district level. He went on to say that this administrative and financial control would be exercised by non-elected officials on the district level.Many departments, according to the counsel, that were previously part and parcel of the district local government system under Section 12 read with the First Schedule of the unamended LGA, had now been devolved to the local government at the tehsil level. He claimed that the drastic change and amendment were made in complete disregard for the parent law.

Another anomaly, he pointed out, was the introduction of Section 21, which provided for the chairmanship of the tehsil council to be directly elected through party-based polls, whereas members of the tehsil council to be elected through non-party-based polls.

Mr. Khushdil argued that a democratic regime included three levels of government: federal, provincial, and district. He contended that the district tier of government was an essential component of local government, and that by abolishing it, the government had violated the constitution.The advocate general asked the bench to dismiss the petitions, claiming that the government was fully competent to implement a local government system in accordance with the peculiar situation in that province.He also stated that the Constitution does not require all four provinces to have identical systems of local self-government.

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