Local Govts Must Approve Development Funds, LHC Orders

Local Govts Must Approve Development Funds, LHC Orders
The Lahore High Court (LHC) has declared unconstitutional the provision of development funds to Punjab, and to federal lawmakers in Punjab, without the approval of the respective local governments.

LHC Justice Shahid Jamil Khan published the detailed verdict on a petition filed by Malik Mazhar Hussain Goraya challenging utilization of the local government’s development fund - in absence of elected representatives at the devolved level - by MNAs and MPAs in Punjab for carrying out development schemes instead.

The petition challenged a tender notice issued by District Council D. G. Khan, arguing that it was against the rules and policy, and was devoid of the required administrative approval of Secretary Local Government. The petitioner also alleged that the deputy commissioner was obliging the MNA and MPAs of the area.

The secretary, Local Government & Community Development Department South Punjab, appeared before the court and claimed that development schemes were prepared in accordance with Rule 5(2) of Punjab Local Government (Works) Rules, 2017, and approved under Rule 5(7) by the Development Committee.

The court however observed that the allegation regarding MNAs' and MPAs’ development schemes was not denied specifically; rather, it was admitted during arguments that the schemes were recommended by respective MNAs and MPAs on their letterheads.

In its ruling, the court cited the Supreme Court verdict in Imrana Tiwana case, which states that any new project that falls within the domain of elected local government, but is approved without its consultation and consent, does not have any legal standing.

“It is, therefore, held that new development projects, not approved by the Defunct Local Government, by the Administrator, on recommendation of MNAs and MPAs or otherwise are declared without lawful authority,” the LHC ruling reads.

“Appointment of Administrators and assigning of functions and power under Notification dated 21.10.2022, by the Chief Minister W.P.No.18004/2022 20 Punjab, without approval of the Cabinet is without lawful authority. However, the functions, not powers to be exercised by elected Local Government, can be ratified and continued by the Administrators appointed in accordance with law,” it said.

The verdict added all new development projects which were not approved by the defunct Local Government were declared without lawful authority, and these can only be continued if ratified and approved, in accordance with law, by the local governments to be constituted after forthcoming elections.