The controversy between the provincial and local governments over the powers of the city mayor took a significant turn on Wednesday when the Supreme Court admitted for hearing a constitutional petition of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan seeking powers for the local governments under Article 140-A of the Constitution.
Earlier, the registrar of the Supreme Court had returned the petition filed by the MQM-P and Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar, raising certain objections, including the grounds for maintainability.
Later, the petitioner political party and its mayor moved an appeal against the SC registrar’s decision which was set aside by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa in Islamabad.
Another petition seeks billions in octroi zila tax for KMC
The petitioners’ counsel informed the three-judge bench that the objection about failure in providing a certificate in terms of Rule 6 of Order XXV of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980 was no longer sustainable as the requisite documents had already been submitted.
Setting aside the objection of the registrar’s office, the bench directed the office to entertain the petition, assign a number and then fix it for hearing before the court.
The next date of hearing would be announced by the court’s office later.
The petition has been filed by barrister Farogh Naseem on behalf of MQM-P convener Dr Farooq Sattar, Mayor of Karachi Wasim Akhtar and some senior MQM-P leaders.
KMC seeks Rs29.36bn as its share in OZT
In addition to taking back control of the KMC, the MQM-P also requested the Supreme Court through a petition to order the Sindh government’s authorities concerned to release Rs29.36 billion as the KMC’s share of the Octroi Zila Tax (OZT) with mark-up etc.
“In view of the political realities, it is imperative that the Supreme Court should pass corrective orders so that the Sindh local government institutions are empowered,” the petition said.
“Since 2008 till date, an amount of Rs1,227bn has been allocated by the Sindh government for the Annual Development Programme, but hardly any funds from the ADP [have] ever been allocated for urban Sindh and even the amount earmarked for rural Sindh has also been eaten away entirely,” the petition alleged.
It further said that the PPP government legislated the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013 on Sept 16, 2013, to take over control of the devolved departments by amending Sections 74 and 75 of the act in violation of Article 140-A of the Constitution as municipal functions could not be taken over by the provincial government or be given to any other body or authority under its control.
“Thus the provincial government has abused the 2013 act by making a parallel statute, rules and regulations to usurp the power of the local governments,” the petition said.
It asked the Supreme Court to order the Sindh government and its departments concerned to immediately release due share of funds to the local governments of Sindh, especially the KMC, from 2008 till date with the mark-up as well as funds of the Annual Development Programme.
Secretaries of the cabinet division, finance, chief secretary, secretaries of Sindh local government, Sindh Assembly, provincial law department as well as leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians have been named as respondents in the petition.
The OZT share of the KMC, according to the petition, came to about Rs60.34bn in eight years from 2008 to 2016, but the KMC received only Rs30.9bn, hence the KMC was entitled to be given the remaining amount of Rs29.4bn, which had been retained illegally by the Sindh government.
The petition said that the OZT did not form part of the Divisible Pool under Clause 7 of the Presidential Order No. V of 2010 that dealt with the distribution of revenues and grants among provincial governments.
The petition argued that the functions of building control ie construction laws and town planning were also municipal functions and should be devolved to the local governments, but under the 2013 act these functions had been vested in the departments working under the Sindh government.
Similarly, the petition said, matters pertaining to land control, planning, leasing and other aspects of land, including land development, were also municipal functions and, therefore, should be devolved to the local governments.
The petition asked the Supreme Court to declare illegal and without jurisdiction Section 3 of the KDA (Revival and Amending) Act 2016, Sections 74 and 75 of the 2013 act, and similar dispensations in other statutes.
The petition also asked the SC to declare that the mayor of Karachi was empowered to exercise authority under Section 4 of the Sindh Building Control Ordinance, 1979, under the local government institutions.
Siddiqui, Tahir. SC admits plea seeking more powers for city mayor. Dawn, July 14, 2017.