KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday struck down the third amendment made in Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) 2013 with a ruling that it was unconstitutional.
The bench set aside the delimitation proposals published in official gazette for Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana and Mirpurkhas and ruled that the entire delimitation exercise carried out by the delimitation officers was in violation of Sections 10, 11, 12 and 13 of SLGA 2013 and the guidelines issued by the provincial government.
The bench ruled that if the Sindh government is of the view that exercise of delimitation is necessary prior to the local government elections in the province, then it may make request to Supreme Court and Election Commission for extending date of elections”.
It said that if the date is extended by the Supreme Court and ECP for delimitation purposes, then the provincial government would set up independent commission or body to deal with the objections and also provide an independent forum of an appellate authority to hear and decide the appeals in the delimitation cases.
The 78-page-long verdict came on 11 petitions challenging the delimitation of constituencies for local government elections, notification whereby deputy commissioners were appointed as delimitation officers to carry out delimitations and third amendment made to the Local Government Act 2013.
The bench in verdict observed: “We feel no hesitation to hold that sub-sections 12 and 14 added to section 18 of SLGA 2013 by third amendment ordinance, whereby a mandatory condition was imposed for formation of panel that consists of nine candidates, were illegal and in violation of Articles 17 and 25 of the constitution.”
Verdict said that through imposition of amendments, an independent candidate who may be so pious, competent and has integrity and entitled to contest election is ousted, which is sheer violation of section 35 and 36 of SLGA 2013 in which no condition of panel is imposed.
The court was of the view that unless such independent persons form a panel, they can not contest the election which is in fact a unique type of the system introduced first time to debar and infringe upon the fundamental right of a citizen.
It said that no lawful justification has been forwarded by the provincial government through which this amendment may be defended except that this exercise would save the huge number of ballot papers.
Earlier the bench headed by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar had reserved the verdict on petitions after hearing arguments from both sides at length.
Two of the petitions were filed by Munawar Baig and Syed Mureed Ali Shah, who asked the court to declare illegal the notification of the appointment of commissioners as heads of the election tribunals and deputy commissioners as delimitation officers.
They had submitted that the delimitation process was to be carried out by the Election Commission of Pakistan only and not by the deputy commissioners appointed delimitation officers.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement moved the SHC against the new delimitation of constituencies for the local government election in the city.
The petitioner party asked the court to declare the delimitation of constituencies illegal and restrain the authorities from conducting local government elections in Malir and South districts.
The petitions against new delimitation of the constituencies for the local government elections were clubbed together by the court. The petitions included one filed by Muhammad Shareef Mirbahar against the delimitation exercise in Thatta district.
Former MNA Zafar Ali Shah also filed a petition against the appointments of commissioners as election tribunals and deputy commissioners as delimitation officers.
Abdul Jabbar Khan in his petition challenged the delimitation process in parts of Shaheed Benazirabad. Muhammad Hanif Qureshi and Mumtaz Ali Abro assailed the delimitation notification relating to different wards in Karachi.
Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz leader Irfanullah Marwat has challenged the third amendment in SLGA 2013.