ISLMABAD- Expressing annoyance over the delay in holding of local bodies’ elections in the cantonment areas, the Supreme Court Monday directed the Attorney General for Pakistan to submit a comprehensive reply regarding the matter on March 10.

Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, heading a three-member bench hearing the case, said it would pass an appropriate order in view of the federation’s reply.

Justice Khilji Arif Hussain remarked if the government desires it could pass the law in a few hours. He said the delaying tactics were being used in holding of the LB polls in the cantonments.

Additional Attorney General Shah Khawar, representing the federation, said that so far the bill regarding holding of elections in the cantonment boards could not be tabled in the National Assembly. He, however, said it would be presented in the next session.

Justice Tassaduq said that in the last hearing he (AAG) had given assurance that the bill would be tabled on February 24. The court, therefore, summoned the Attorney General and adjourned the hearing of the case for half an hour.

Iftikhar Gilani, appearing on behalf of Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (r) Asif Yasin Malik in a contempt case, said a five-member bench had given observation against his client. He said his client had tendered unconditional apology since the beginning, but the trial court had not accepted it.

Justice Jillani said they would see how serious the government was in holding LB polls in the cantonment areas, and what role the secretary played in it. Iftikhar Gilani contended that his client was not the government and it was not in his power to hold elections.

After the break Attorney General Salman Butt appeared before the bench. The chief justice inquired from him as to why the bill regarding holding of LB polls in the cantonments could not be presented in the National Assembly. He told the AG that the court did not stop the government from legislating new law, adding if the government wanted to use the delaying tactics, then they would direct the federation to hold the election in the cantonments in accordance with the old law and the government could insert a clause in the new law that would apply to the local bodies.

The attorney general informed the court that the existing law was not democratic, so the federation wanted to frame a new law. Justice Azmat remarked what kind of democracy it was when no local government elections were held in the cantonments in the last 14 years. Justice Jillani told the AG that after the federation’s reply they would pass an order.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed remarked that it was a constitutional command to hold elections in a fair, free and transparent manner. Justice Azmat said in the last five years no local government polls were held on the plea that there was no local government law.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani remarked, “Prima facie the government does not want to conduct the LG polls in the cantonment boards.”

He said the government should make it clear that if no legislation was done, no LG polls would be held in cantonment boards too. “People cannot be deprived of their rights for a long period. The government should hold the polls and legislation in this regard can be done later. Any new law can be reviewed,” he held.

The Supreme Court proposed to give district and sessions judges appellate authority in the existing provisions of delimitation of constituencies in the Punjab Local Government Act 2013.

The bench asked the Punjab advocate general to seek instructions from the provincial government in that regard and submit reply today (Tuesday). ECP Additional Secretary Sher Afgan, however, agreed to this proposal. Akram Sheikh, counsel for ECP, endorsed the bench’s proposal to give appellate authority to the district and sessions judges.

The bench directed the SC office to again issue notices to all the parties that had not received notices so far, saying in case the parties failed to respond even after receiving the notices, they would then decide the case.