The Committee was firmly and unanimously of the view that all public functionaries must act in a fair, just and reasonable manner, that if a person was likely to be adversely affected by their decision he must be given an adequate opportunity to defend himself, that detailed reasons must be recorded for making any order likely to adversely affect any person and such person must immediately be provided a copy of the order. To achieve this end the Committee proposed insertion of Sections 19A and 24A in the Punjab General Clauses Act as under:-

“19A. Rules, Notifications, Orders and Regulations etc. to be published.- All rules, notifications, orders, regulations, bye-laws, schemes, forms, instructions and circulars having the force and effect of law and made or issued under any enactment shall be published in the official Gazette”.

“24A. Exercise of power under enactments.-(1) Where, by or under any enactment, a power to make any order or give any direction is conferred on any authority, office or person, such power shall be exercised reasonably, fairly, justly and for the advancement of the purposes of the enactment.

(2)     The authority, office or person making any order or issuing any direction under the powers conferred by or under any enactment shall, so far as necessary or appropriate in the circumstances of the case, give an opportunity of hearing to any person likely to be affected adversely, give reasons for making the order or for issuing the direction and shall provide a copy of the order or the direction to the person prejudicially affected”.

A draft of the amending law was sent to the Chief Minister. There can be little doubt that the proposed amendments will vastly improve the transparency, credibility and acceptability of executive orders. Further, adherence to the provisions of these amendments should substantially reduce the quantum of grievances against executive orders that find their way to the High Court and the civil courts. A similar provision already exists in the Federal General Clauses Act in the form of its section 24A.

The Committee was firmly of the view that the security situation in the rural areas of the Province, and re-establishment of the effective writ of the Provincial Government in the rural areas, required the revival of the lambardari and chowkidar systems. For the same reasons there was a need to appoint municipal wardens in the urban areas.

There are about 18,000 sanctioned posts of chowkidars in the 9 divisions of the Province of which nearly 8,500 are vacant. Similarly there are about 38,500 sanctioned posts of lambardars of which nearly 5,500 are vacant. With the advent of the Local Government system the post of lambardar has lost its attraction except in the colony districts where, in terms of a notification issued in January 2006 under the Colonization of Government Lands Act 1912, about 500 lambardars hold grants of State Land. No such grants are available in the non-colony districts.

The lambardars (village headmen) are appointed under the Punjab Land Revenue Act 1967 and the Punjab Land Revenue Rules 1968 and their manifold duties include collection of land revenue and other provincial government dues, reports to the Tehsildars on all encroachments on roads and government properties, submission of information required by the Deputy Commissioners on transport matters, crop inspections, surveys and the like, report on breaches in canals and water courses and reports on outbreak of contagious diseases. Under the Punjab Law Act of 1872 they are also to supervise and control the village chowkidars in their jurisdiction and to liaise with the local police.

To encourage the revival of the lambardari system the Committee proposed that lambardars be exempted from payment of annual renewal fees for arms licenses, that all government departments should seek the assistance of the lambardars in implementation of departmental programmes and to associate them in price control committees, peace committees and food committees, that the SHOs should involve the lambardars and the village chokidars in all watch and ward duties, that revenue and irrigation authorities should give priority to lambardars in attestation of documents relating to land and irrigation water and that lambardars should also be made responsible for collection of abiana in areas served by the Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority. The Committee further proposed that the notification issued in January 2006 for grants of State lands to lambardars in colony districts should be rescinded provided that such land should revert to Government after existing lambardars have ceased to hold office. For the future a Village Officers Cess equal to 5% of land revenue should be levied on all land owners to compensate the lambardars for the performance of their duties as permissible under section 37 of the Punjab Land Revenue Act.

In regard to village chowkidars the Committee recommended that they should be appointed by the Assistant Commissioners of each sub-division on the nomination of the lambardars and after obtaining certificates of good character from the local SHO. There should be one chowkidar (watchman) for every 200 houses or shops. The chowkidars should be middle pass and fulfill the physical eligibility criteria fixed for police constables. In large villages there should be a head watchman for every five village watchmen. The village watchmen should be paid Rs.50/- per house or shop within his beat. Apart from watch and ward duties the watchmen should be made responsible for recording all births and deaths and for giving particular care to the safety and well-being of unattended children. The guiding principle for them should be that they are the servants of the village community.

The Committee noted that the 1872 Act was being administered by the Home Department and the Land Revenue Act by the Board of Revenue with little co-ordination between the two. One department should administer both laws. The Committee drafted and sent to the Chief Minister draft Rules for implementation of the proposals relating to village watchmen.

On the same pattern as the case of village watchmen the Committee noted that section 137 of the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 provided for appointment of municipal wardens but the same had not been activated. The Committee drafted and sent to the Chief Minister draft Rules for appointment of municipal wardens setting out in extenso their duties and functions. As these wardens will be paid by the urban local councils the proposed activation will require a readjustment of the financial relationship of the urban local councils with the Provincial Government.

Not much more than 20% of the population have access to the justice system. Recognising this huge lacunae sections 96 to 99 of the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 provided for establishment of Panchayats and Musalihat Anjumans. To a large extent the provisions were a repeat of similar provisions in the local government law of 2001 enacted in the Pervaiz Musharraf era. The provisions in both laws have remained a dead letter notwithstanding an activation attempt in 2006 through notification of the Musalihat Anjuman (Constitution and Function) Rules. The Committee framed fresh Rules prescribing the appointment and functions of Panchayats and Musalihat Anjumans. The stress in these Rules is on amicable settlement at the village or mohallah level through informal/flexible procedures. The Committee also proposed that an amendment be made in the 2013 law to reduce the number of Anjuman members from an unwieldy 9 to a more workable 5.

The final report of the Committee was on splitting the Lahore district into either two or four districts. As per the 2017 Census report Lahore district has a population in excess of 12 million. The average population of the other 35 districts is about 3 million. Both public convenience and requirements of better administrative control require that Lahore be split into either four or at least two districts. The split into two appears to be more feasible and certainly less expensive. The two could become four at some later stage. It may be noted however that the Police Department have already split Lahore into 4 regions each headed by a DIG.A sub-committee headed by the Commissioner Lahore Division prepared a detailed plan for splitting Lahore into two or four districts which was approved in principle by the meeting chaired by Shahbaz Sharif for implementation after the General Elections 2018.

 

The writer is a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court and the Former Governor Punjab.