RAWALPINDI, July 11: The Lahore High Court (LHC)’s Rawalpindi bench on Wednesday restrained the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) from probing the alleged unlawful merger of 2,882 kanals of the Revenue Employees Cooperative Housing Society (RECHS) land with Bahria Town.
Hearing the intra-court appeal filed by the management of Bahria Town, the court, however, dismissed its request to stop the trial court from proceeding against property tycoon Malik Riaz in the 1,401 kanal land fraud case.
The petitioner had challenged the June 21 ruling of Justice Chaudhry Shahid Saeed in which the judge had declared the merger as illegal and directed Bahria Town to compensate RECHS affected persons within two months and also asked the ACE to initiate action against those behind the illegal deal materialised in 2005.
The division bench, comprising Justice Chaudhry Mohammad Younus and Justice Ali Baqir Najfi, issued notices to the ACE and other respondents and adjourned the hearing till the last week of July.
Ilyas Sheikh, the Bahria Town counsel, told the court that the merger was done in accordance with the law, adding not only all the legal requirements had been fulfilled but also approval had been taken from the then chief minister Punjab. According to the counsel, RECHS had become a dead society and at the time of the merger it owned 2,300 kanals of land with 1,969 members in its north and south residential sectors.
He claimed that the Bahria Town (BT) management had initially compensated most of the society members; 432 were approached later and 52 members could not be traced.
He contended that the single bench had announced the decision in favour of the affected petitioners without hearing the arguments of Bahria Town. The counsel requested the court to restrain the ACE from probing the matter.
He added that the BT was willing to compensate the RECHS affected members within two months, requesting the court to appoint an arbitrator for the evaluation of the land of the affected members.
Rashid Hafeez, the assistant advocate general Punjab representing the ACE, told the court that RECHS administrator, who had decided the merger, was not competent to sign the deal with the private housing society.
The affected members of the RECHS requested the court to provide them an opportunity to present their view but the court rejected their request.
Major (retired) Azhar Shah, chairman RECHS affecttees committee, however, told Dawn that Bahria Town had tried to mislead the court by presenting fake statistics.
He said Malik Riaz in a statement submitted to the Supreme Court had acknowledged that 740 RECHS affectees were not compensated, but in the LHC the Bahria Town management reduced their numbers to 432.
He said 52 members, who the Bahria Town management claimed untraceable, had died while waiting for compensation but the management did not try to contact their legal heirs.
Meanwhile, the same court also heard another petition filed by BT seeking orders to the ACE for staying the proceedings in the 1,401 kanal land fraud case. After hearing the petitioner’s counsel, the ACE Punjab and National Accountability Bureau, the court dismissed the petition.