July 29th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
The Lahore High Court on Wednesday granted the Punjab government a further 40 days time to implement the Supreme Court order on the restoration of local governments, directing top officials to submit an implementation report on September 7.
Justice Ayesha Malik gave the directions while hearing the petitions of Lahore mayor Col (r) Mubashar Javed and others for seeking implementation of the apex court’s March 25 judgment on the restoration of local governments in Punjab.
Justice Ayesha Malik inquired from the chief secretary as to why officials had not brought a plan for the restoration of local governments in the province. She directed that the government should submit a separate plan for the restoration of local government in each district of the province. Officials from the Local Government and Community Development Department sought two weeks’ time from the court to finalise the restoration plan and to get it approved by the government.
The petitioner’s counsel told the court that the Punjab government had not restored local governments on the orders of the Supreme Court despite a lapse of four months. He said people were facing a host of problems due to non-restoration of local government institutions, adding that the court should implement the decision of the Supreme Court and order the restoration of local bodies.
Justice Ayesha Malik ordered the presentation of a unanimous plan of action, granting a respite to the provincial government for implementation of the apex court’s order till September 7 after the summer vacation.
During the hearing, the chief secretary said a first meeting on the transition plan was held with local government representatives on 23rd July as the court had ordered in the last hearing. He said the meetings on the transition plan were held in all the districts, adding that the meeting minutes have been filed in the court. The divisional transition committees have been asked to submit a plan of action in two weeks, the chief secretary said.
The chief secretary told the court that the local governments were working through administrators. The court inquired as to why administrators issuing orders on rent increases and leases. The chief secretary said that all development work has been stopped in the local governments.
The petitioner’s counsel said that according to the rules of the transition committee financial matters would be handled by the elected local government representatives. He objected to the two weeks time being sought by officials saying the time was being sought for approval of the plan and not for the restoration of the local government. Upon this, the court directed the petitioner’s counsel to submit any objections and their action plan for restoration of local governments to the court in writing.
Lahore mayor Col (r) Mubashar Javed sought permission to address the court on the matter. Justice Ayesha Malik asked why the mayor needed to address the court as his lawyer has already spoken on the matter. Javed said he wanted to narrate the details of the transition meeting that he had attended.
The mayor told the court that the officials and elected representatives in the meeting had all agreed that they had the equipment and resources to restore local governments. He said the only thing required was to replace government officials with elected representatives in the offices of the local governments. “This can easily be done through a notification whereby employees sent to other departments are repatriated to their respective local governments,” he told the court.
“The bureaucrats are restored to their seats with a stroke of the pen but it is an irony that elected representatives chosen by millions of people are not being restored to their offices,” the mayor told the court.
Justice Ayesha Malik restrained the mayor from making a political speech in the courtroom, directing him to submit his own action plan if nay with the court.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Lahore mayor Col (r) Mubashar Javed said he had told the court that the non-restoration of local governments was tarnishing the country’s image internationally. “I have received two invitations from abroad as mayor of Lahore and when I informed my hosts that the local governments were still non-functional for four months despite a court order, they were shocked,” he said.
Javed said the bureaucracy was conniving with the ruling PTI provincial government to delay restoration of the local government.
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.