The Supreme Court on Thursday declared Section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act 2019 (PLGA-2019) unconstitutional and ordered the restoration of all local government bodies across Punjab.

The apex court also ordered all provinces to hold local government elections by May.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmad heard the case related to local body elections at the Supreme Court today. Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked the Punjab government why local bodies were suspended in the first place, as their terms had not finished.

He remarked that the statement of the Attorney General was recorded and the provinces would hold local body elections in May. The Attorney General said that this is not only a matter of the federation but also of the provinces.

The Additional Advocate General said that the Punjab government is ready to hold local body elections. The Punjab government wants to devolve powers to lower levels, but the matter is still pending in the Council of Common Interests, he added.

The Chief Justice inquired whether local body elections were being held in other provinces. The Attorney General said that the rest of the provinces have objections to the census. The meeting of the Council of Common Interests was scheduled to be held on March 24, but will now be held on April 7 due to COVID-19.

Justice Ejaz-ul-Haq commented that the term of local bodies of Punjab would have ended just now.

The counsel for the petitioner said that the term of local bodies in Punjab was till December 2021. After the 2018 elections, the new Punjab government dissolved the local bodies and gave them time to hold elections in one year. After a period of one year, the Punjab government made a new amendment and then issued an ordinance.

Justice Mazahar Naqvi inquired whether the local bodies in the rest of the provinces had completed their term. The Chief Justice remarked that Punjab Local Bodies Act 2019 has been challenged before the court, and asked whether the petitioner wants to repeal section three of the law.

Later, the court declared section 3 of the Local Government Act unconstitutional and restored the local government bodies.

Bodies Dissolved

Local bodies in Punjab had been dissolved by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) provincial government in May 2019, before the completion of their terms.

“The purpose of dissolution of the previous local governments was to ensure a level playing field for all prospective candidates in the upcoming elections under the 2019 Local Government Act,” the government had said.

“[The government wanted] to eliminate political influence of any kind; there was no other way that political parity could be achieved in such context,” the provincial government had said in its reply submitted in the Supreme Court.

Anas Mallick is an international journalist who has been working as a field reporter for 7+ years now. With a focus on diplomacy, militancy, and conflict, Mallick's expertise involve Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. He tweets at @AnasMallick


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