1. This constitutional petition is directed against the order dated 24.1.2016 of the Returning Officer, District Council Distt. Rahim Yar Khan/respondent No. 2 whereby nomination papers submitted by the petitioner against the seat reserved for “Peasant” in Distt. Council, Distt. Rahim Yar Khan were rejected and the order dated 27.1.2016 whereby appeal filed by the petitioner was dismissed by the Appellate Authority/respondent No. 1.
2. Learned counsel for the petitioner submits that the petitioner has sold out some of his land vide agreement to sell dated 18.10.2010 and now owns land less than five acres, therefore, his case is covered within the definition of “Peasant” given in Section 2 (ii) of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 but respondent No. 2 on wrong premises has rejected nomination papers of the petitioner; that the Returning Officer is not empowered to declare a person ineligible on ground alien to law and he transgressed his power while making scrutiny of nomination papers but the Appellate Authority did not consider this aspect with judicious mind and as such the impugned orders are liable to be set aside.
3. On the other hand learned Law Officer assisted by learned counsel for respondent No. 4 has vehemently opposed the petition on the ground that the petitioner is owner of more than five acres of land and as such he is not a peasant within the meanings of Punjab Local Government Act, 2013; that the petitioner is known businessman of the area; he is member of Chamber of Commerce & Industry Rahim Yar Khan, owner of a 2012 model Corolla car and is holder of 21 Bank Accounts and that he contested Local Government Election, 2015 on the Seat of Vice Chairman and in this regard submitted nomination papers which carry all above mentioned details of his property and thus he is not eligible to contest election on the Seat which is reserved only for poor ‘peasants’ in order to represent their own class, therefore, his nomination papers have rightly been rejected.
4. Arguments heard and documents placed on file by both the parties perused with their assistance.
5. Ensuing elections of local governments in Punjab are to be held only on seats reserved for different categories to represent specific kinds of persons. The legislature in its wisdom has categorized different classes in order to ensure that specific kind of people are represented through persons belonging to their own class. Needless to mention that spirit of a democratic government system is that public representatives must be elected through fair election from the community to whom they want to represent. With this perspective special seats have been reserved for different categories. The representative of “peasants” should be from the said humble class and not from any other community. Otherwise the intention and purpose of reserved seats would be defeated. The petitioner has submitted his nomination papers on the seat reserved for ‘Peasant’. Word “Peasant” has been defined in Section 2(ii) of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 as under:
“Peasant” means a person who is a landless farm worker or, one who during the period of five years preceding the year in which the election is held, has been the owner of not more than five acres of land and depends directly on it for subsistence living;”
A plane reading of above quoted definition of “Peasant” would reveal that a person qualifies to be a peasant if he is landless farm worker or has not been the owner of more than five acres of land for the last five years preceding the year in which the election is held and depends on the said land for his subsistence. As mentioned above, the petitioner intends to be elected against one of the special interest seats which are reserved by the legislature for induction of deprived classes who on account of their social handicaps might face serious afflictions in getting elected as members of local government and intention of legislation is to protect rights of oppressed classes not only to save system from being eroded but also for effective, proper and broad based administration of affairs of local government. Pre-condition to qualify for a person to contest election is that he should be landless farmer or a person having less than five acres of land (at least for the last five years preceding the year in which election is being held) and his livelihood/ subsistence must depend on the income of said land. Thus only peasants who have no other means for their livelihood and are physically engaged in the cultivation of said land for their subsistence are covered under the definition of peasant within the meaning of Section 2(ii) of the Local Government Act, 2013. Any person having independent source of income other than cultivation of land thus would not come within the definition of ‘peasant’ under the above quoted clause.
The documents produced at bar depict that the petitioner is a Member of Chamber of Commerce and Industry and is holder of at least 21 Accounts in different banks in his own name as well as in the name of his business firm. He is income tax payer and holds N.T.N. Copy of Declaration of Assets attached with nomination papers submitted by the petitioner at the time to contest election for Vice Chairman in recent election of local government held on 5.12.2015 shows that he is a rich person who cannot be equated with the class to which normally peasants belong. The petitioner is not engaged personally in cultivation and earns his livelihood from the source other than being farmer worker meaning thereby that he is not directly dependent upon cultivation for his subsistence which is condition precedent for his being declared as a peasant. By using phrase “depends directly on it for subsistence living” the legislature has conveyed that occupation of person claiming to be peasant should be cultivation. Even if it is conceded that the petitioner sold out some of his land more than five years ago and has land less than five acres even then since he has means other than agricultural land for his subsistence, he cannot be declared a “Peasant” within the meanings of Section 2(ii) of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013. Steering thoughts in this regard may be gathered from Ahmad Bakhsh vs. The District Judge/Election Tribunal and others (PLD 1986 SC 223). Needless to mention that even the copy of alleged agreement to sell also appears to be a dubious document as it does not carry time frame for payment of remaining amount or for execution of sale deed which in normal course of events is not believable and there is no cavil to the proposition that agreement of sell does not create any right in property itself and only gives right to get contract completed which contract has not been completed even after a lapse of six years.
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