The Court of Appeal yesterday gave the go-ahead for a legal challenge to the scrapping of the two municipal councils, which was said to have deprived local residents of their right to take part in public affairs. Mr Justice Brian Keith said the issue was an important one and it should be allowed to proceed to a full hearing because it involved the question of 'some constitutional difficulties'. The other two judges, Mr Justice Gerald Godfrey and Mr Justice Anthony Rogers, concurred with the decision. They unanimously quashed the ruling made by Mr Justice Frank Stock, who last December refused an application seeking a judicial review of the abolition bill. Yesterday's appeal was brought by former provisional regional councillor Josephine Chan Shu-ying, who is now a Tuen Mun District Council member. The two municipal councils, formerly comprised of elected members, became provisional municipal councils after the 1997 handover. They were then abolished under the Municipal Services (Reorganisation) Bill, which took effect on January 1 this year. This transferred control over food and hygiene to the Government and certain other powers to non-elected arts and sport councils. Barrister Philip Dykes SC, for Ms Chan, said the bill took away the public's right to participate in public affairs either directly or indirectly, through elections, which was inconsistent with international human rights covenants. He said the abolition of the municipal councils also contravened provisions in the Basic Law. But barrister Benjamin Yu SC, for the Government, said there was no room for further argument on the issue because the Basic Law empowered the legislature to control the formation of district organisations. In delivering the judgment, Mr Justice Keith said Mr Justice Stock had taken a narrow view when rejecting the application. 'In my opinion, there is room for an alternative view,' Mr Justice Keith said. 'The critical question is whether the current form of local government, which is . . . in the hands of non-elected bodies amounts to [a] denial of rights.' He added there were some 'constitutional difficulties', such as the extent of the power of the Legislative Council and the public's right to participate in public affairs. 'In my view these are important questions which cannot be disposed of in a summary way.' Outside court, Ms Chan and lawyer Albert Ho Chun-yan, whose law firm represents the applicant, welcomed the judges' decision. Mr Ho said it was not too late for them to do something, even though the two municipal councils had been scrapped. If the future ruling went in their favour, they might request that the Government reinstate the two municipal councils, he said.