LAHORE - MIAN DAWOOD and Sajid Zia - After Sindh, holding of local bodies elections in Punjab on January 30 has also become doubtful as the Lahore High Court has scrapped delimitation of constituencies carried out by the government, which now says the polls could be delayed for up to one and a half years.

A full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday annulled Section 8 and 9 of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 and observed that how the LB elections could be transparent when the delimitation was not done through a fair procedure.

A day before, the Sindh High Court had also declared illegal the entire delimitation exercise carried out for local government elections in Sindh, besides the amendments made in the LB law.

Talking to media on Tuesday, Punjab Law and Local Government Minister Rana Sanaul Allah said the government respected the LHC decision but the LG polls in the province could be delayed for one and a half years as a consequence.

Talking to media, he categorically said that holding of the local bodies’ elections was not possible on January 30 after the court decision. He also announced that the government would not challenge the LHC full bench order before the Supreme Court.

In light of the court order, the government would need to legislate on the LG law afresh and this exercise would take minimum six months, the minister said. And, if the delimitation is to be done on the basis of fresh census, which has already been approved by the prime minister, holding of the LG elections may be delayed for one to one and a half years, he added.

Rana said that in the process of the fresh delimitations, he said, consideration would also be given to the effectiveness of the demographical strength of every constituency in light of the 1998 census.

Commenting about the recently carried out delimitations, the minister said that the executive was authorised to carry out this exercise under direction from the Election Commission which, when the LG law was being framed, had expressed its inability to take up delimitation of the constituencies owing to inadequate manpower.

Later on, he said, the Lahore High Court bench headed by the Chief Justice also acknowledged the government mandate to delimit the constituencies but now that decision stands upset by the full bench. So, the LG polls will definitely get delayed in implementation of the latest judgment of the court, he said.

As hearing started on a set of petitions in LHC, petitioners’ counsels argued that in view of the 18the amendment, holding of local government elections was the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) under articles 218(3), 219(d) and 222 (b) of the constitution.

The apex court had also explained the role of ECP in Workers Party Case, they argued. “Therefore, ECP enjoys unlimited powers from delimiting the constituencies to holding of elections,” they maintained.

The lawyers contended Section 10-A was added to PLGA on November 9 through an ordinance with malafide intentions because the elections schedule had been issued on Nov 6, three days before this amendment.

At this, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, who was heading the full bench, asked acting Advocate General Mustafa Ramday, in how much time the whole process had been completed. He wondered that how the entire process could be completed in just 11 days. “Prima facie, an MNA or MPA would succeed in having the constituencies delimited as per his or her own choice,” the judge remarked.

Replying the court query, the acting advocate general submitted that the delimitation was done in a transparent manner by giving full opportunity to the candidates to file objections. He added that the delimitation was not a part of election process as in year 2000 the same was done by the provincial government in the light of powers given by ECP to the government.

The lawyers pointed out that at least 400 petitions had been filed in LHC raising same points which show that delimitation was not done in fair manner. 

The bench announced its short order nullifying Section 8 and 9 of the PLGA. The bench also directed ECP to fulfill its responsibility regarding delimitation for holding elections on time.