The Supreme Court on Thursday took the Royal Palm Golf and Country Club under judicial custody in a case pertaining to the sale of Pakistan Railways' land at throwaway prices, and ordered audit firm Ferguson to confiscate the club's records.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, while heading a three-member bench at the Lahore registry, expressed his displeasure over the sale of railway's land and regretted that the owners of the Royal Palm club had collaborated with the previous railway administration and "embezzled billions of rupees".
The chief justice said that Royal Palm owners "are so powerful that half the country listens to them", but vowed that "this is railway's land, we will not let anyone else occupy it."
In a previous hearing of the case, Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed had claimed that Royal Palm Club's owners obtained a stay order from the high court when the previous railways administration tried to take back its land. He had criticised the previous governments for ruining the railways by resorting to corrupt practices.
Furthermore, the minister had sought permission from the court to continue with short-term leasing of the railways land for cultivation purposes to meet its expenses.
The CJP had observed that the land could not be used for any other purpose except laying tracks and building stations. However, he said, the question of shorter leasing would be decided on the next hearing.
During today's hearing, the chief justice said that the court will not allow railway's land to be leased for the purpose of building housing societies. However, he permitted the leasing of railway's additional land for up to three years.
The chief justice warned that if the additional property were to be transferred to provinces, "they too would sell it".
"If provinces have any objections, they can take the legal route," Justice Nisar observed.
Rasheed, who appeared before the court today, urged the bench to order the recovery of what he claimed was "the most attractive property of the railway".
Subsequently, the chief justice adjourned the case till tomorrow (Dec 28).