SC hears PTI petition against Sindh local govt law

ISLAMABAD: A bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Wednesday heard a constitutional petition seeking directions for the Sindh government to devolve powers to the local government institutions.

The court earlier, set aside objections of the Registrar’s Office over the petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The bench issued notices to the Government of Sindh, Attorney General of Pakistan and Advocate General Sindh.

The petition has challenged the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) seeking directions for the provincial government to devolve powers to the local bodies in the province in view of Article 140-A as well as Articles 3, 4, 9, 14, 16, 17, 19, 19A and 25 of the Constitution.

While hearing the petition Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked, “if the local government of Karachi generates its own funds?” MQM counsel replied that District Tax has been abolished in the city. Provincial Finance Commission issues funds to local governments. “If the MQM raised voice against the legislation”, the bench asked. “It was in minority and was not heard over the matter,” MQM counsel Barrister Salahuddin said.

“The entire game is to keep powers in one’s own hand. What is guarantee that the local governments would work properly if being delegated powers,” Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked. “Every system made for Karachi didn’t give good results so far,” the top judge remarked.

“The powers will also bring accountability,” Justice Ijazul Ahsan said. “If in government they don’t like to share powers, when not in government, they talk about devolution of powers,” the Justice further remarked.

“Presence of local government is not someone’s choice but it is compulsory,” the chief justice said.

“How did you perform in your local government. People were drowning, houses were collapsing where was your city government at that time,” chief justice asked the MQM counsel. “Twenty thousand KMC employees are getting salaries, where were they and why they didn’t seen at that time,” the CJP further questioned.

“You should legislate a comprehensive and ideal law, the court will extend its helping hand,” chief justice said.

MQM counsel in his arguments said that clause 74 and 75 of the SLGA contravene the constitution and under clause 74 the provincial government could take back any powers from local governments.

The CJP told the counsel to restrict him to the legal points of the case and said that the bench would not be available for hearing for the next two weeks.

The court asked the counsels to submit their arguments in writing.