ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court reminded again on Tuesday the counsel representing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen to furnish revenue records of his leased lands to establish that those who had leased out their lands to him were true owners.
At the last hearing on Oct 5, a three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, had asked Sikandar Bashir Mohmand, the counsel for Mr Tareen, to submit Khasra Gardawari, Jama Bandi and other relevant revenue records showing how much money he had paid to the lessor to get lease of 18,566 acres of land in 2010 and evidence proving that he had earned around Rs1.6 billion agriculture income from the said land.
The apex court had taken up a petition of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Hanif Abbasi seeking disqualification of Imran Khan and Jahangir Khan Tareen over non-disclosure of assets, existence of offshore companies as well as the PTI being a foreign-aided party.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial, a member of the bench, clarified to the counsel that the court was asking for the Khasra Gardawari, Jama Bandi etc to see whether the lessor claims the ownership of the lands leased.
Justice Faisal Arab observed that since the client of the counsel was so meticulous in keeping records, he must have all the revenue records.
In the petition, Mr Tareen faces allegations that in 2010 he showed the revenue he earned and the tax paid before the FBR in tax returns, but he did not mention the same in his nomination papers submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The counsel assured the court that he would provide the documents being asked but at the same time requested the bench to give some consideration to the fact that all the payments Mr Tareen made to the lessors were through crossed cheques, adding that he could get affidavits from the lessors that they received so much funds from Mr Tareen.
But the court was not convinced and the chief justice wondered why the counsel was insisting on the affidavits and not the revenue records. “I am perceiving a situation, therefore, it is better that the counsel should show the revenue records being asked,” the chief justice observed, adding that if need be the court might seek the assistance of the officers from the relevant revenue departments for the confirmation and veracity of the documents presented.
The chief justice also told the counsel that the documents produced by the respondents would have relevance only when the papers being asked would be provided. The court reminded the counsel again that he had to furnish proof about the ownership of the lands of the lessors, evidence regarding leased lands, revenue records along with the copies of crossed cheques issued for the payments. The chief justice suggested to the counsel not to seek answers from the court which may prejudice his case.
However, the counsel tried to explain that the affidavits would show the true ownership of the lands Mr Tareen had leased.
Advocate Azid Nafees, who is fighting the case of petitioner Abbasi, however, told the court that Mr Tareen had never ever produced Khasra Gardawari before courts where Mr Tareen had moved appeals etc.
Sikandar Mohmand, however, told the court that his client had asked for the documents from the relevant departments and this exercise was taking place. But he hastened to add that in the two districts where the lease lands were situated, the revenue records were usually not found in pristine condition.
On Tuesday, the counsel submitted 178 lease agreements of 160 different lessors from whom the lands have been leased out. But the court was not happy with the record since most of the lease agreements were neither registered nor these show particulars about the lessors and in many cases not even the Muza or Khata numbers or evidence to prove that the lessor was the real owner of the lands.
The counsel, however, replied that he would do a cross-reference exercise but argued that his client was the biggest agriculturalist who had employed modern farming methods as a result of which his yield per acre in 2010 was 818 maunds with a revenue of Rs22,891 per acre and he was the biggest sugarcane producer as wells of best quality mangoes and cotton. The counsel cited a 2013 judgement of the Lahore High Court which came on an election dispute, yet the court held that even after the enforcement of the Punjab Agriculture Income Tax Act, 1997, no institutional framework was in place even in 2013 as contemplated by the act for collecting, determining, assessment and retaining agriculture income tax etc.
The judgement also held that entries or columns in the nomination forms pertaining to the disclosure of agriculture income tax were ambiguous and, therefore, the benefit of doubt should go in favour of the contesting candidates.
The counsel also cited a 2003 letter of Mr Tareen to the senior member of Punjab revenue highlighting difficulties in calculation of tax accrued.
On Tuesday, senior counsel Akram Sheikh, who represented the petitioner in the Imran Khan disqualification case, objected to the fresh filing of certain documents by Mr Khan despite closing of the case.
Despite the initiation of the case in November last, this was the first case in which the Supreme Court kept receiving documents, the counsel argued, saying that Mr Khan was also highlighting new issues after the closure of the case.
The court, however, asked the counsel to submit a rejoinder on the new documents filed by Mr Khan.
Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2017