Thursday March 30, 2023

Plea against NAB letter stopping transactions over District East land rejected

March 19, 2023

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has dismissed a petition seeking the suspension of the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) letter to stop any kind of transaction with regard to 36 acres of land in Karachi’s District East.

Petitioner Iqbal Ahmed said NAB had issued a letter to the deputy commissioner in respect of the aggregated 36 acres of land in Deh Songal and Deh Okweari in connection with a NAB investigation against former revenue officials Gul Hasan Channa and Abdul Razzak Qureshi in an illegal allotment case.

Ahmed said he is a lawful allottee of 18 acres at Section 17-B, Scheme 33, after the payment of all outstanding amounts to the revenue department.

His counsel said the land came under caution imposed by NAB following the filing of a reference against Channa and Qureshi over the illegal allotment of 272 acres in District East on fake evacuee claims.

He said the caution was earlier lifted after the promulgation of the NAB Amendment Act, 2022, when Section 23 of the NAB Ordinance was repealed. He added that NAB had obtained an order from an accountability court that imposed a moratorium on the use of property.

He also said the order was illegal, because since no reference had been filed, the same could not be enforced. He added that the petitioner was not a party in the reference and now could not sell or utilise the land for any other purpose because the property was allegedly under caution by NAB.

NAB’s special prosecutor said that the entire land identified in the case was government land, but the petitioner and others, by showing themselves as evacuees, had succeeded in obtaining the same through a will deed allegedly executed by a dead person who had nothing to do with the properties.

He said the investigation was still under way, so if the freezing of land transfer order was vacated at this stage, the third-party interest would be created by the petitioner, compromising the merits of the investigative proceedings.

After hearing the arguments and the perusal of the material available on record, an SHC division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro said that it appeared that after the repeal of Section 23 of the NAO, 1999, under which the subject property was under caution, the officer investigating the land allotment had obtained an order from an accountability court.

The bench said the impugned order showed that the court had issued various notices to the respondents, including the petitioner, but without any response from them, and ultimately, after considering the material available on record, the court had passed the impugned order confirming the freezing of the properties and holding that the allotment of Na-class to evacuee claimants was not without suspicion.

The SHC said the accountability court order was also challenged by the petitioner that was still pending, and the impugned notice that had been challenged by the petitioner had been issued in compliance with the order passed by the accountability court and was not the result of exercise of executive authority to justify the filing of a separate petition by the petitioner. The bench said the petitioner had also challenged the accountability court order that was already pending in court, and until the order was in field, the impugned notice would remain in field.

The SHC said that even on merit the petition was not maintainable because during an ongoing investigation into the authenticity of the title of the petitioner over the land, the freezing of property order could not be lifted because of the apprehension that the petitioner would sell the land, thus hampering the investigation and abridging its outcome. The then dismissed the petition.