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December 25, 2018

SC rules no lease, no housing societies on railway land

Top Story

December 25, 2018

By Amir Riaz

LAHORE: The Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ruled Monday that the railway land will not be used for establishing housing societies or issued lease for it, till the next order of the court.

The apex court heard suo motu case on deficit in Pakistan Railways. Railways Minister Sh Rashid appeared before a two-member bench in the case hearing. The court also summoned record of stay orders from all high courts and subordinate courts about the railway lands. The judges remarked that the railway land is owned by the department and only the railway could utilise these lands. The bench also ordered removal of encroachments from the railway land in Chakwal and other areas. The bench remarked that the railways land is owned by the federal government and not the department. The apex court summoned the owners of the Royal Palm Club on the next hearing of the case issuing notice to Hussnain Construction, the lessee of Royal Palm Country & Golf Club. The bench adjourned the hearing till December 27.

During the hearing of a case regarding suspension of a railway track in mineral area of Chakwal, railways minister told the bench that the department was unable to recover its land from illegal occupants due to stay orders passed by the Lahore High Court and other courts.

Specifically talking about the Royal Palm Club, the minister said the owners obtained a stay order from the high court when the previous management of railways tried to take over its land. He said the railways had been facing an annual loss of Rs35 billion. He criticised the previous governments for ruining railways through corrupt practices.

The minister sought permission from the court to continue with short-term leasing of railways land for cultivation purpose to meet its expenses. The chief justice observed that the railways land could not be used for any other purpose except rail tracks and stations. However, he said the question of shorter leasing will be decided on the next hearing.

Regarding the suspended track of Chakwal, the minister said revival of the track would not be viable for the railways.

He pointed out that a maximum of 21 passengers used to travel daily when the operation of the track was closed in 1991 while the revenue of the railways from it was Rs258 per day. He said the financial condition of the railways did not allow resumption of the train track of Chakwal. A woman lawyer pleading petition for the restoration of Mandra-Chakwal railway line stated that the track was operational since 1886. She pointed out that Sh Rashid during his previous stint as railways minister had in 2007 had restored the track. She said the railways instead of reviving the track used the land for residential purposes. The chief justice observed that it was the job of the railways to decide whether to run a train track in any area. The CJ disposed of the petition in light of the minister’s reply.

On the other hand, the chief justice came hard on PML-N’s MNA Afzal Khokhar and MPA Saiful Malook Khokhar and warned them of strict action for grabbing land of poor inhabitants.

The apex court remarked that they had become a symbol of terror as no one dares raise voice against them. Both brothers also appeared in the court.

At the outset of the hearing Monday, Lahore deputy commissioner Salah Saeed presented a report, stating that “Khokhar Palace” of Khokhar brothers is over 177 kanals of which 61 kanals has been used for construction of building while remaining 116 kanals is outside the boundary wall. She said all the land is legally owned by Khokhar brothers. However, its consolidation was done in a dubious manner.

Lahore Development Authority legal adviser claimed that maps of the land were not sanctioned by the Authority while the town municipal officer was not authorised to approve the maps.

In rebuttal, the Khokhar brothers’ counsel Ahsan Bhoon presented four maps approved by the LDA. But town planner pointed out that these maps are not of the land where the palace is built. He claimed the maps were got sanctioned of land situated elsewhere. At one point of time, the chief justice offered them to deposit Rs100 million in dam fund to get a clean chit from the court. But Khokhars did not agree at once. The court summoned member Board of Revenue, consolidation officer, and DG anti-corruption today. The court also directed the FIA to submit a report regarding assets and lifestyle of present and former ‘halqa patwaris’ of area.

The apex court sought personal appearance of Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda and Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar in a case relating to construction of Nai Guj Dam in Dadu, Sindh.

Earlier, an officer of Wapda told a two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar that PC-I for the construction of the dam had been issued while its scrutiny by the relevant ministries was awaited.

He said the after the approval by the ministries, the matter will be placed before Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) for final go ahead. The officer further stated that process to invite bid for the construction of the dam would start next month. The bench adjourned further hearing till December 28 and directed both the ministers to appear in person along with progress reports on the matter.

The chief justice summoned federal minister and health secretary in a matter regarding passing of new legislation of Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) and Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap). The chief justice also allowed four-week time to AF Ferguson & Co to conduct forensic audit of the past accounts of the Council and the Authority.

The Supreme Court gave another six-week time to Sialkot police to arrest prime suspect involved in murder of a local journalist of Sambrial.

Earlier, Sialkot DPO told the court that properties of suspect Imran Cheema alias Mani had been confiscated while his fingerprints had been transmitted to Interpol. Previously, the police had stated that the suspect escaped abroad.

The chief justice directed Sialkot DPO Ameer Abdullah to take serious steps for the arrest of the suspect and also restrained him from harassing sister of the suspect. The chief justice ordered the DPO to immediately unseal schools of the woman, which were closed by the police due to vulnerable security arrangements.

The CJ ordered the Sindh Revenue Department to immediately procure possession of encroached properties belonging to Hindus or any other minority community.

The chief justice was hearing a suo motu matter at the Lahore Registry relating to encroachment of properties owned by Hindu community.

Representing the community, MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar appeared before a two-judge bench and submitted a report about encroached land in different areas of Sindh including Mithi, Larkana, Kashmore and Sukkur.

A law officer of Sindh told the bench that there were cases pending before different civil courts regarding the ownership of the properties in question.

At this, the chief justice directed the tehsildars concerned to immediately take possession of the properties with undisputed titles while directing the civil courts to decide the pending cases within six months. The chief justice also ordered the civil court to dispose of cases if filed by the affected persons after the revenue department took over the possession of the properties belonging to Hindu community or any other minority. With these directions, the chief justice disposed of the matter.