ISLAMABAD - A division bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) will Monday (today) take up a petition of Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan Member National Assembly (MNA) belonging to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) challenging the notification regarding constitution of National Finance Commission (NFC) award.

In this regard, a single bench of IHC comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb earlier suggested to constitute a dual bench to conduct hearing of the petition and sent the file of the case to Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah for the approval.

In this matter, the petitioner’s lawyer adopted that the Constitution of Pakistan explicitly states that the country is to be run by elected representatives.

He contended that nowhere in the constitution does it state that the PM’s adviser on finance can be the convener instead of the finance minister.

The NFC is meant to distribute financial resources among the federal government and the provinces. It includes distribution of taxes collected by the federal government which form a divisible pool.

According to Article 160 of the Constitution, the president constitutes the NFC after every five years for a period of five years. Once there is a consensus of all stakeholders on a particular formula to distribute the finances, the award is implemented for the next five years.

The PTI-led federal government on May 12 formed the 10th NFC to announce the new award. The Ministry of Finance notified constitution of the 11-member commission after approval by federal and provincial members and its terms of reference by President Arif Alvi. The commission will, however, effectively consist of 10 members as the president also authorised the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to chair NFC meetings in the absence of the federal finance minister.

In his petition, Dastgir requested the court to declare the said notification as illegal.

He filed the petition through his counsel Barrister Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha and cited President of Pakistan through his secretary, Federal Government through secretary cabinet division, Secretary Finance, Secretary Law and Dr Abdul Hafiz Sheikh Advisor to Prime Minister as respondents.

He stated in the petition that the basic framework of the state structure laid down by the colonial masters of the sub-continent was a centralised and unitary structure and the winning provincial autonomy and fiscal de-centralisation was one of the principle demands of our independent movement.

He termed the notification as unconstitutional and liable to be set aside. He prayed to the court to declare that in the exercise of their functions under Article 160, the President is bound to act on and in accordance with the advice of the federal cabinet or the prime minister where the governors of the provinces are bound to act on and in accordance with the advice of the provincial cabinets or the chief minister and absence of such advice shall render the appointments process defective.

He also requested the court to declare that any proceedings of the commission where even one of the duly appointed members of the Commission is absent shall be void since Article 160 does not provide for any minimum operational quorum.

The petitioner further prayed to the court to declare that impugned notification dated 12th May, 2020 cannot be given retrospective effect and any proceeding of the Commission which took place prior to May 12, 2020 were of no legal effect.