Tuesday May 24, 2022

LHC CJ rejects DHA’s request to expunge remarks

By Amir Riaz
April 30, 2021

LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Thursday turned down Defence Housing Authority’s request to expunge the remarks against the army but made it clear that remarks were neither against the armed forces nor were meant to hurt the feelings of anyone. They were made against the conduct of some specific persons.

As the hearing resumed on Thursday, DHA counsel Altafur Rehman made an oral request to the chief Justice to expunge the remarks made by him on Wednesday in which he termed the DHA the “biggest land grabber”. The DHA’s counsel said the remarks expressed by the chief justice against the army had caused concern in the institution, requesting the court to delete them.

CJ Khan turned down his request and said his remarks were not meant to undermine dignity or disrespect of anyone but were about the “conduct of some people of yours”. He pointed out that more than half of his family is in the army.

“Respect of national institution is the top priority. 220 million people respect soldiers sitting at the borders of Kashmir, Siachen Glacier and Bahawalnagar,” said the chief justice. “You first have to realise this responsibility. If serving individuals of the army will come and do wrongdoing in the DHA, the army will be discredited. When a person becomes part of an institution, he will be held accountable,” said the chief justice.

Justice Khan was hearing the petitions of three citizens seeking an order against the DHA to not disturb their lawful possession of the land they had obtained on lease from the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). He reiterated no one should occupy another’s land.

Referring to himself, Justice Khan said as the chief justice, there was a “heavy responsibility” on him and if he occupied that office, he should act as a judge. “If I quarrel with a shopkeeper, the people would not say Qsim Khan has done wrong, they will blame the office of chief justice. It is the duty of a judge to maintain decorum and respect of the institution. “I was told that if I go anywhere, my actions should be becoming of a judge.”

If serving officers of army would work in the DHA and commit wrongdoing, they would definitely earn a bad name for the institution of army, the CJ added. Similarly, if four lawyers went out on the street and had a scuffle with a rickshaw driver or hawker, the entire lawyers community would suffer disrepute and a bad image, he said and asked the DHA legal advisor to make his people understand that they were also the citizens of this country and answerable before the law. “For God’s sake, make them understand,” the CJ said

He also questioned if anyone from the DHA was present in the court. The judge had directed the DHA administrator to appear before the LHC on Thursday along with the complete record. “The legal director has come from the DHA,” said the DHA’s counsel.

The CJ said the law of the land suggested that one could remove occupier of a land without adopting a legal course. “If someone occupies my land, even I would move to court against him.” He said the Supreme Court in its 2007 judgment had suspended the DHA’s claim on the land, adding that it had also usurped the land of minorities. The chief justice observed that the land belonging to the minorities could not be usurped by acquiring it at a minimum price.

“This matter could create a situation for Pakistan more badly than the FATF dilemma,” CJ Khan expressed his apprehensions, saying the country would be criticized for grabbing the land of its minorities. “We would not be able to face the world,” he said and added the DHA had issued a letter after occupying the land and asked when the land in question had been taken over. “I cannot give the whole building of the high court to anyone today.”

The legal director of the DHA briefed the court on the matter. The counsel for the petitioners, Advocate Asif Imran Awan, said that according to a decision of the Supreme Court in 2007, the DHA’s right to the land had been suspended.

The other day, the chief justice had summoned DHA administrator Brig Waheed Gul Satti along with the record of the land in question. However, DHA Director Legal Col (retd) Naamdar appeared before the court on Thursday.

The chief justice adjourned hearing of the case till May 3 and directed the director legal to seek instructions from the DHA management. He ordered the authority not to disturb the possession of the petitioners unless it acquired the land under the law.

Petitioners Zeeshan Mehboob, Raheel Tufail and Zulfiqar Hussain had received different chunks of land allotted on a three-year lease from the ETPB for cultivation purposes in Mota Singhwala, Lidhar and Dera Chahal Mauzas near Bedian Road, Lahore. A counsel for the ETPB had told the court that the petitioners were the lawful owners of the land in question.

Earlier, Chief Justice Khan also took notice of a social media post by Lahore Development Authority’s legal counsel Amir Saeed Rawn, who was present in the court, on the remarks of the court about the 50-Kanal land of the LHC allegedly occupied by the DHA. The lawyer shared a 2016 letter of the LHC registrar, which directed the then district coordination officer of Lahore to get the land measuring 50 Kanals situated at Mauza Sangatpura mutated in favour of the DHA and the land measuring 65 Kanals in Mauza Phularwan mutated in favour of the LHC.

Taking exception to the lawyer’s post, the chief justice observed that the LDA became a party in the case. He also expressed his reservations on the land transaction, saying that it was not a decision by the administration committee of the LHC. The LDA shouldn’t try to prove more loyal than the king himself, the CJ added.