ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah on Thursday observed that the proceedings as well as correspondence of the Human Rights Cell (HRC) of the Supreme Court are not binding on high courts.

During the hearing of a case related to a land dispute between a British national of Pakistani origin woman and the owner of a real estate firm, Justice Minallah pointed out that the IHC had already passed an order related to the HRC proceedings.

The court during a hearing last month had referred the matter to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF).

A legal adviser for the OPF on Thursday informed the court that they had contacted the complainant woman on June 25. On July 1, the community welfare attaché in the UK also contacted her and heard her point of view.

“We have also perused the documents and as per an order sheet provided to us by the complainant herself, her case has been decided by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.”

When Justice Minallah asked him to produce the Supreme Court’s order, the OPF counsel informed the court that it was a letter from the HRC.

Last year, an FIA investigation team, comprising additional director general Basharat Ahmed Shahzad, deputy director Kamran Ali and inspector Irfan Azim Burni, on the direction of the HRC of the Supreme Court had investigated the complaint filed by the woman.

In her complaint, she claimed that the incumbent owner of the real estate entity was his employee but in an alleged fraudulent manner he transferred her properties in his name. When she tried to retrieve the land, he threatened her.

According to the FIA report, the registrar of firms, Islamabad Capital Territory, transferred the properties in question in the name of the firm on photocopies instead of original documents and that too in a non-transparent manner.

However, former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar on his last working day ordered the HRC to file the case to the record.

Justice Athar Minallah noted that it was not an order of the Supreme Court but a letter of its human rights cell.

“The HRC letter is not a Supreme Court decree. We have continuously held that HRC’s proceedings are even not binding on the high courts. You should read the judgment of this high court regarding the validity of the HRC, which had also been upheld by the Supreme Court.”

Advocate Ahsan Bhoon, the counsel for the real estate firm, on the other hand, informed the court that the complainant had filed a civil suit over the disputed land in the civil court of Rawalpindi. Therefore, the matter does not fall within the jurisdiction of the IHC.

When Justice Minallah asked whether there was a document related to the pending litigation in the Rawalpindi court, Mr Bhoon replied that he could produce it before the court on the next date of hearing.

Subsequently, the court asked him to submit this along with their written reply. The court then adjourned the hearing for three weeks.

The OPF and the Ministry for Overseas Pakistanis however have been directed to continue the inquiry into the matter and submit a report on the next date of hearing.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2020