LAHORE - The Punjab government, which had been saying it would not challenge the LHC’s annulment of constituencies’ delimitation in the Supreme Court, is now considering of doing so.
A Lahore High Court (LHC) full bench hearing a set of petitions had on December 31, 2013 annulled the delimitations of electoral constituencies carried out by the Punjab government and struck off various sections of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013.
Punjab law minister and other officials had repeatedly said that the provincial government respects the court verdict and they will not challenge this decision in the apex court, besides dropping the hint that the local government elections may be delayed by more than a year as a result of this decision.
But now sources in Advocate Office say that the government wants to secure its own delimitated constituencies and hold the elections on the previously given date of January 30. They said the government’s legal team is waiting for copy of the LHC order as it has not been dictated so far by the bench comprising Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Farrukh Irfan Khan and Justice Atir Mahmood.
The sources told The Nation that the staff of Punjab Advocate Office has been directed to prepare an interim draft of the appeal against the LHC verdict, “however, it will be finalised after the issuance of the full bench order”, which they said was expected this week. “The government will try to get suspend the LHC full bench order to the extent of the delimitations,” they said.
The sources said that there were two important reasons behind the change in mind of the government: One, it wanted to secure the delimitations carried out as per the wish of the members of ruling PML-N; Two, it wants to dispel the impression that it wanted to delay the LB elections.
Additional Advocate General Muhammad Hanif Khattana confirmed that they were waiting the copy of the judgment, but he refused to comment on government plan to challenge the LHC verdict. However, he added that it was almost impossible to delimit the constituencies afresh by January 30.
A senior advocate, who is part of the government legal team, said the full bench’s verbal order had complicated the holding of the local bodies’ elections in the Punjab as neither new delimitation was possible within the short time span nor the elections could now be held as per the already carried out delimitation.
Requesting anonymity, he said the government also approached the Punjab Election Commission to clear its position after the announcement of the LHC full bench order, however, the commission refused it saying it would not take any position before receiving a copy of the LHC verdict.
The candidates for LB elections believe that after the court decision, holding of the elections on January 30 had become almost impossible. Moreover, “the candidates will have to submit nomination papers afresh from old delimited constituencies if the apex court rejects government appeal, and orders ECP to hold elections as per SC’s earlier orders to hold elections as per schedule, January 30”, the senior lawyer maintained.
The delimitation of the constituencies by the PML-N led Punjab government for local bodies’ elections became controversial especially when the government inserted Section 10-A in the PLGA. The section reads: “A court, officer or authority shall not review or correct any delimitation of a union council or ward after the notification of the election schedule.”
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, head of the LHC full bench, had wondered how a government Act could remove the role of the court when powers of the high court (under Article 199) could not be curtailed. “Who will do justice if the government takes a wrong decision?” the Justice Mansoor had remarked.
Before the full bench, the one of the petitioner’s contention was that a division bench of the LHC had on Nov 7 ordered that elections be held on party basis and the ECP had issued the schedule. But with a gap of few days, the Punjab government on Nov 9 through an ordinance inserted Section 10-A in the PLGA with malafide intentions.