ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Thursday ordered the Advocate General Punjab to inform today whether the Punjab government is interested in challenging the Lahore High Court judgment regarding Local Government polls.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, hearing the local government elections case also directed the Sindh government counsel to provide the copy of Charter of Democracy, signed by PML-N leader and incumbent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto in 2006 in London.

During the proceedings, Khawaja Haris, amicus curea, argued the provincial governments have to frame the Local Government Institutions laws, while the Election Commission o Pakistan has to carry out the delimitation process.

Khawaja Haris said right to vote is more important than the fundamental rights, because it was the basis of constitution and the democracy.

The amicus further contended that Article 140A of the Constitution was about local bodies system and according to that it was the responsibility of the provincial government to frame laws for the local bodies’ institutions and ECP was empowered to carry out the delimitation of the constituencies. He said the election process starts with the notification of election schedule, but in 1973 Constitution the words ‘holding of elections’ have been used, which included the process from preparation of voter lists and the delimitation.

The bench inquired what was the purpose of inserting Article 140A in the Constitution? Khawaja Haris stated to make sure the local bodies elections are held in transparent manner, as before that the LB elections held were dissatisfactory.

The chief justice questioned as to whether the political parties did not trust each other, therefore, Article 140A was inserted in the constitution. The CJP further asked whether this LB system was the part of Charter of Democracy. The learned counsel said he thinks it was but not quite sure about it.

The bench then put that question to Farooq H Naek, the counsel Sindh government. He replied that it was the part of Charter of Democracy. The court therefore directed him to provide the copy of CoD on Friday.

Khawaja Haris further argued that the local bodies institutions had financial power, but it’s control was with the provincial governments. But now the local bodies’ institutions have been given full financial power and they could spend funds without getting dictation from the provincial governments. He said the delimitation process was very important in LB polls because any error in that could not been rectified later on, which is against the spirit of transparent polls.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed remarked if it was accepted that the election process commences with the announcement of election schedule then all the provisions regarding preparation of voter lists would be unconstitutional as the voter lists are prepared before the elections. He questioned if the voter lists were part of election then why delimitation couldn’t be part of election process. These two are interlinked therefore either they have to be excluded or include in the constitution.

Khawaja Haris concluded his arguments, while Makhdoom Ali Khan, another amicus curea, had already completed his arguments on Thursday.

Advocate General Punjab Mustafa Ramday informed the court that the Lahore High Court had passed two orders regarding local bodies polls. He said the Punjab government had accepted the LHC first order, while have objections on certain portions of the LHC second order.

The court inquired, why the Punjab government had not challenged the LHC orders? Mustafa Ramday replied that it had already been challenged by Azhar Siddique. Justice Azmat asked whether the Punjab government was relying on Azhar Siddique. The advocate general Punjab told that after taking instruction from the provincial government he would informed the court about it.

Upon that Justice Azmat Saeed remarked that they know why the Punjab government was not challenging the LHC orders. Mustafa Ramday stated the provincial leadership was in China. The court asked him to take the instruction from the Punjab government and inform on Friday.