July 20th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
The Lahore High Court on Monday granted a 10-day respite to the Punjab government for formulating an action plan to implement the Supreme Court order on restoration of local governments in the province, directing top provincial officials to refile the government response on the next hearing on July 28.
In the last hearing on July 16, Justice Ayesha Malik had rejected the Punjab government stance of not restoring local governments and summoned the provincial chief secretary and the local government secretary. The court is hearing identical petitions, moved by Lahore mayor Musbashir Javed and other local government representatives, seeking contempt proceedings against the Punjab government for violating Supreme Court directives to restore local governments in the province.
Appearing before the court, Chief Secretary Punjab Jawad Rafique Malik said the provincial government has constituted transitional teams in all districts to restore local governments in the province. The transitional teams will meet with local government representatives to chalk out handover of offices and related administrative matters, the chief secretary told the court. The provincial officials also presented a summary regarding the transition teams in the court.
The provincial government has constituted a District Transition Team in each district to ensure smooth transition of powers to the local government representatives in order to implement the Supreme Court judgement passed on 25 th March, according to a notification issued by the Punjab Local Government and Community Development Department on 17th July.
The members of the District Transition Team will include the district deputy commissioner, who will be the Coordinator, head of the restored local government concerned, opposition leader of restored local government concerned, additional deputy commissioner (F&P), additional deputy commissioner (General), chief officer concerned and deputy director (LG&CD), who will be the team’s secretary.
The terms of reference of the District Transition Team is to prepare an inventory of all assets, liabilities and employees of the local governments in the district. Secondly, the team will prepare a draft transitional plan and submit it to the Divisional Transition Team for approval by the provincial government. Thirdly, the team will assist the Divisional Transition Team to review transitional plan for distribution of assets, liabilities and existing employees of local governments. Lastly, the team will distribute assets, liabilities and employees amongst local governments after approval of the Transition Plan by the government.
“The district transition teams will meet on July 23,” Col (r) Mubashir Javed, mayor of Lahore, told Voicepknet. He said the meetings will chalk out plans for the handover of power to the elected local government representatives The Lahore mayor said he intended to address the court over the outcomes of these meetings on the next date of hearing.
PML-N Secretary-General Ahsan Iqbal rejected the Punjab government’s notification on the constitution of district transition teams. “What a joke and mockery Govt of Punjab has made of the Supreme Court judgement on the restoration of local bodies. The order was very plain and simple that local bodies are restored as they existed just before the dissolution. Transition team is a tool to consume remaining term of local governments,” the PML-N leader said in a tweet.
The petitioners had also challenged the government’s directives to issue tenders by the local governments. Justice Ayesha Malik restored the suspended notification of use of funds through the local government administrators to the extent of payment of salaries and pensions of the employees, adding that no development work could be done from the fund. The court also directed the Punjab government to withdraw the old reply in the case and file a new response on restoration of local governments in the province on the next hearing on July 28.
On March 25, a bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, through a short order, termed Section 3 of the Punjab Local Bodies Act in contravention of the Constitution and ordered to restore local governments in Punjab province. The apex court declared the government’s decision to dissolve the local governments unconstitutional. The Supreme Court issued its detailed judgment on July 5.