ISLAMABAD - Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has said conducting Local Bodies (LB) polls in cantonment boards is legal and constitutional obligation of the government and any further delay cannot be allowed on this count.
He gave these remarks while presiding over a 2-member Supreme Court bench hearing an appeal filed by the government against high court orders on annulment of delimitation of constituencies in Punjab.
“Enough is enough. LB polls have not been held in cantonment boards so far since 1998…. Responsibility for holding LB polls in cantonment boards rests with federal government. Defence secretary is facing contempt of court case for this reason. We will hear this case separately,” Justice Jillani said.
“Delay in holding elections is breach of law and its consequences will not be good. Government had said it was legislating but legislation has not been enacted so far. People cannot be kept deprived of their rights for long time. Government should tell when it would hold elections,” the CJ remarked.
“If government cannot make amendment then we will order for conducting LB polls under old and the existing laws. When amendment is made then we will get hold elections afresh under new laws. We have waited for government amendments to all possible limits and we will not allow more delay now. This is legal formality that government should hold LB polls in cantonment boards,” the chief judge said.
The court observed that holding of LB elections is mandated by the Constitution in terms of Article 140A, as required by the Principles of Policy enshrined in the Article 32, and it asked Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt to assist on the consequence of any further delay in terms of these two articles of the constitution. The court ruled that the question of contempt against Defence Secretary Asif Yaseen Malik would also be taken up on the next date of hearing (February 20).
Earlier, during the hearing, Additional Attorney General Shah Khawar informed the court that the position of holding elections in the cantonment areas remains the same as the amendment in the laws is still to be made and was under process. He said a meeting was scheduled under the chair of defence minister with all stakeholders but that meeting could not took place due to emergency meeting of the minister with the prime minister.
Government counsel Akram Sheikh said “the reasons of the decision have also come. I have applied for the decision. We will file the reply within next two days. The matters related to delimitations have been declared null and void in two provinces. Then how can the elections be conducted. High court has nullified delimitations in Sindh and Punjab. CJP remarked, “We will serve you notice that you should file reply within a week for providing assistance to us.”
The court remarked further that these matters include: Firstly, delay in holding polls in cantonment boards leave what impact constitutionally; Secondly, if the federal government can hold LB polls in cantonment boards under the existing laws or not. The court sought reply till Feb 20 from the federal government as to if it was going to hold polls or not, and directed AG to assist it on the above said matters.
Election Commission Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan later told the media outside the court that schedule for local body elections will be announce after completion of the process of delimitation by the provinces.