The provincial assembly can pass the bill again without changes
Sindh Governor Imran Ismail has effectively rejected the Local Government (Amendment) Bill passed by the Sindh Assembly last month, sending it back to the assembly to reconsider at least nine points he has raised.
The move was being anticipated by the Pakistan Peoples Party led provincial government, which has been pushing key amendments to the 2013 Sindh Local Government Act.
The Sindh Assembly has the prerogative to pass the same bill again without any changes.
However, opposition parties in the province have been protesting against the amendments that take away several departments from the city government to place them under the provincial authorities.
The Sindh governor has expressed his reservations over nine amendments introduced to the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013.
He has extended the following arguments against the amendments.
1. The governor has opposed the plan to replace District Municipal Corporations (DMCs) with towns saying the abolition of DMCs without consideration would create coordination issues in cases related to the provision of services, jurisdiction, boundaries, law and order and revenue matters as the rest of the system still functions as per the jurisdiction of revenue offices.
2. Governor Ismail also says that allowing the council to elect “any person” as mayor, deputy mayor, chairman or vice-chairman of the council would enable people to become mayor without taking part in the local bodies elections. He has recommended that “any member from the house” should be elected instead.
3. The governor also opposed the amendment to Schedule-V of Sindh Local Government Act 2013 saying that the said amendment will deprive municipal corporations of immovable property tax which would result in severe financial crisis for the municipal corporations.
4. Imran Ismail says secret balloting would create room for horse-trading. The election of the mayor should be held using a show of hands vote, he said.
5. The amendment to section 10 of the 2013 Act is seen by the governor as an infringement on the power of the Election Commission of Pakistan to change constituencies. He says that the amended section-10 provides that the government may, for the reasons to be recorded, waive the aforesaid conditions in the sub-section. Governor Ismail said that such powers fall under the purview of the Election Commission of Pakistan and this amendment may ultimately affect fair play and impartiality in the election as the number of seats in a specific area can be increased and decreased on partiality.
6. About the amendment to section 15 of the 2013 Act the governor says that the following proviso is being added: “Provided that no area shall be deemed to be rural area in a metropolitan area.”
The governor said that it abolishes the need for land conversion. Instead, no rural area should be part of Metropolitan Corporation to conserve rural and agricultural land, he said.
7. Under the amended law the term of the council constituted shall be four years from the date its member take the oath. The governor says it has replaced the original provision where the term of the council was to commence since holding its first meeting. He wants the original provision restored.
8. The governor has also taken exception to the power granted to the government to amend schedules through notifications under the amended law. He says such notifications would be against the constitutional spirit.
9. The final objection is against the transfer of hospitals and several other local government departments from local governments to the provincial government.
Such hospitals include Karachi Medical and Dental College, Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Sobraj Maternity Home, Sarfaraz Shaheed Hospital, Spencer’s Eye Hospital, and Leprosy Hospital.
Departments related to birth, death and marriage registration, control of infectious diseases, adult education, primary education, health and maternity centers, primary health, dispensaries, control of articles of food and drink, milk supply education and compulsory education are also being transferred to the Sindh government.
Governor Ismail says such a step would further weaken the local government institutions, which is against the spirit of Constitutional provisions.
The Sindh governor has called upon the provincial assembly to reconsider the Bill.
Sindh Assembly Secretary Umar Farooq told SAMAA Digital that the Sindh Local Government Amendment Bill, 2021 will come to the assembly floor for reconsideration.
“Making amendments in the bill is in the hands of lawmakers, whether they do it or not. It is the prerogative of the assembly to pass the bill with or without any change,” Farooq added.
If passed without a change, the bill will be sent again to the Sindh governor for final assent and if the governor does not grant it assent within 10 days the bill shall become a law and the governor will be deemed to have granted the assent.
Muhammad Hussain Syed, a senior retired bureaucrat who served as Sindh governor’s principal secretary, agrees with the Sindh Assembly secretary.
Syed says the provincial assembly is fully authorised to reconsider the bill sent back by the Sindh governor or pass it again without a change.
“As per the Article 116(3) of the Constitution, the Sindh governor does not have much power and can only send the bill back to the provincial assembly and he has already used his prerogative,” he added.