Delay in administering oath of LG Members: PHC issues notice

Humayun Khan

PESHAWAR: A divisional bench of Peshawar High Court comprising of Justice Attique Shah and Justice Shakeel Ahmad issued notice to Advocate General Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in case regarding delay in administering oath to the chairmen and members of local councils elected during the first phase of polls in December last year and not handing them over their respective responsibilities and adjourned further hearing till 17 March.
The writ petition was filed by newly elected Mayor Mardan Himayatullah Mayar at the high court to issue directives to provincial government and Election Commission of Pakistan to administer oath to the chairmen and members of the councils and to notify the assumption of offices by them.
The petitioner has also prayed the court to order handing over of the movable and immovable properties/assets/staff, etc rights and liabilities of the then district government to respective tehsil governments.
The respondents in the petition, filed through senior advocate Babar Khan Yousafzai, are provincial government through secretary local government and rural development, ECP through chief election commissioner and provincial election commissioner. The petition seeks notification for assumption of offices by chairmen and members of local councils
The petitioner has contended that such illegal acts of the respondents are depriving the residents of 17 districts, where local government elections were held on December 19, of their due right of representation. He stated that following holding of the polls, ECP issued the notification of returned candidates in respect of local government elections in first phase in 17 districts of the province including Mardan.
The petitioner said that as per the rules mentioned in KP Local Government Act (Amendment) 2019 Section 79 (1), the term of a local council should be four years, commencing on the date on which it held its first meeting. He said that as per the proviso of the said section, the first meeting should be held not later than 15 days from the day on which the names of its members were notified.
The petitioner contended that as per Section 80(1) of the amended KP Local Government Act and section 78(1) of KP local governments (conduct of elections) Rules 2021, every chairman and member should, before taking his seat, make and subscribe to an oath. He stated that the law had made it binding on the local government secretary to notify the assumption of office by the chairmen and members of the councils.
Moreover, he contended that as per section 121-A (1) of the said Act, the petitioner was entitled to be handed over the movable/immovable properties/assets/staff etc rights and liabilities of the then district government. He said that after the failure of the respondents to commence the oath, he had submitted a written application to chief election commissioner and provincial election commissioner on February 28, 2022, for administration of oath as per law. He added that another application was submitted by him to the provincial government on March 2 to notify their lawful assumption of offices.
The petitioner contended that the respondents even having crystal clear rules and directives in the statute, failed to comply with the administration of the oath, assumption of charge and handing over of the properties and assets of district council to the successor tehsil government. He stated that the constitutional provisions including articles 32, 140A and preamble of KP Local Government Act, 2013 provided to encourage local government institutions composed of elected representatives and having special representation of peasants, workers, women, minorities and youth and devolution of political, administrative and financial authority and responsibility to elected representatives of the local governments respectively.