Salim Akhtar, a resident of Hafizabad, told Dawn that in March this year, the Ramna police informed him that his stolen vehicle, a Toyota Corolla 1994 model, had been recovered.
“Even though it was an old model I was asked by the court to submit a surety bond worth Rs400,000 to get the vehicle on superdari. I had to submit the papers of my land to get the vehicle because my car’s worth is less than that and I could not get a bond made on it,” he said.
His is not the only case where the judges of local courts have asked for a surety bond which does not match the market value of the car.
On July 15, auto-car thieves stole a Suzuki FX from sector G-8 Markaz. The car was recovered a few days later and the owner of the vehicle thought his misery had ended quite quickly – however, he was mistaken.
“We were asked to submit a surety bond worth Rs150,000 by the court. The market value of the car is far less than that and we could not arrange it,” a relative of the victim recounted on the request of anonymity.
“The court was not willing to accept it, and it was only when one of our relatives agreed to submit his property papers as surety that the vehicle was released,” he said.
Since a recovered vehicle is considered court property till the disposal of the case, owners can only get legal access to the vehicle after tendering a surety bond under superdari.
When Dawn contacted Advocate Supreme Court Haroonur Rasheed over the issue, he said: “First, they have to prove their ownership. Even if that is proven, the vehicle is the court’s property till the case is closed. Usually the court demands surety against personal guarantee or property papers, just so that the person who is being given the car will produce it in court whenever the court asks for it.”
He added: “Surety bonds are a legal formality. An investigation officer can also obtain an affidavit or a surety in writing from the owner that he/she would produce the property in the court when it is needed.”
Police officers who have been dealing with auto-thefts and recovery told Dawn that for the last six months, the local judges have become strict about giving cars on superdari.
“Earlier, if the owner brought the relevant papers, the judges would consider giving the car back to him. But in February, the Islamabad High Court directed the district and sessions judges, chief commissioner and inspector general of police Islamabad to take action against those judges and senior officials of the local administration and police who illegally obtained unclaimed cars on superdari from the police,” he explained.
“Although the directive was issued against those who got the superdari of unclaimed vehicles, the judges have generally become quite wary,” he said.
Clearly, this alertness has hampered the issue of recovering cars for genuine cases.
“It has added to the misery of the owners as mostly Mehran, Suzuki FX and Toyota Corollas are stolen from the capital. Most owners are salaried class people who bought the vehicle after lots of hard work and difficulties,” a police officer said, “and many do not even have property or bank balance to make surety bonds against.”