MULTAN: A decision by the Lahore High Court, Multan bench, has landed the office of the chief settlement commissioner, Board of Revenue (BoR), in trouble in connection with 47 acres (state) land as the heir of the allottee has failed to prove the authenticity of the allotment order and identity and succession of the allotment holder.

According to the revenue record, 377 kanals and 16 marlas at mauza Jungle Khan Muhammad was allotted to Pujara Ram and Roshan Das under the Colonization of the Government Land Act on May 24, 1946, through an auction against Rs4,7462.

Later on, this land was allotted to Hafeezan Khanam on May 24, 1960 under the Well Sinking Scheme by the Punjab BoR as their owners left for India after Partition. In 1966, the land was allotted to Shadi by the Rehabilitation and Settlement Authorities (now chief settlement commissioner) which ensued litigation.

On Jan 29, 2013 the LHC declared the land evacuee property on a petition by heirs of Shadi, including Siddiqan and others, and ordered the land belonged to Shadi.

Siddiqan said she was sister of Shadi and was his sole heir as he was without an issue.

On Dec 16, 2014 the Supreme Court upheld the decision. On Feb 24, 2015, the LHC directed the authorities to implement the court order after a petition was lodged by Muhammad Ramzan (son of Siddiqan), and others.

On May 16, 2016, however, the BoR member (Judicial-V) as chief settlement commissioner declined the application by Ramzan raising serious questions over the authenticity of land allotment documents to Mr Shadi.

The district collector also asked the parties to satisfy it on the authenticity of allotment orders, besides their identity and succession to Shadi.

The chief settlement commissioner moved the LHC seeking withdrawal of its January 29, 2013 verdict but on March 13, Justice Shahid Karim dismissed petitions over time limitation.

Sources said former deputy commissioner (DC) Nadir Chattha was offered Rs100 million for not creating any hurdle in handing over the possession of the land to the petitioners but he refused.

The chief settlement commissioner directed DC Mudassar Riaz Malik not to give the possession of land to anyone as the department was going to challenge the court order.

Advocate Allah Dad Khan said the department should challenge the decision with higher forum as both petitions were dismissed for time limitation despite the fact the section 18 of the Limitation Act of 1908 allows chief settlement commissioner to challenge LHC’s decision.

Similarly, he said that instead of dealing the mater on merit, the court has dismissed the appeal under section 5 of the same act which states ‘any appeal or application for [a revision or] a review of judgment or for leave to appeal or any other application to which this section may be made applicable [by or under any enactment] for the time being in force may be admitted after the period of limitation prescribed therefore, when the appellant or applicant satisfies the court that he had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal or making the application within such period’ despite the fact it is a well settled law that the matter should be decided on merits and not upon technicalities.

Chief Settlement Commissioner Asif Iqbal Sahu told Dawn that he yet has to decide over the direction of the court.

“The state land will be protected at any cost,” he added.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2019