The Defence Housing Authority's (DHA) counsel on Thursday asked the Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Mohammad Qasim Khan to expunge remarks made by the chief justice a day ago in which he termed the army as the “biggest land grabber”.
On Wednesday, the chief justice, while hearing petitions of three citizens seeking an order against the DHA to not disturb their lawful possession of the land they had obtained on lease from the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), had lashed out at the DHA for its involvement in “illegal” occupation of lands and regretted that the army seemed to have become the “biggest land grabber”.
He had regretted that the army had also grabbed a piece of land measuring 50-kanal owned by the high court and added that he would instruct the LHC registrar to write a letter to the army chief in this regard.
Presiding over the hearing today, CJ Khan said no one should occupy another's land.
The DHA's counsel, Altafur Rehman Khan, said that the remarks uttered by the chief justice against the army in Wednesday's hearing had caused concern in the institution. "The court is requested to delete the remarks about the army."
Responding to this, CJ Khan said his remarks were not meant to dress anyone down but were about the conduct of "some people of yours". "Probably more than half of my family is in the army," he added.
"Respect for institutions is paramount, the court's remarks were not meant to hurt anyone," Justice Khan said. "These remarks were made for a few people."
CJ Khan said if those serving in the army also worked in DHA then "make your people understand. For God's sake make them understand".
"People respect the army soldiers sitting at the borders of Kashmir, Siachen Glacier and Bahawalnagar," said the chief justice. "You first have to realise this responsibility."
Referring to himself, Justice Khan said as the chief justice, there was a "heavy responsibility" on him and if he occupied that office then he should act as a judge. "I was told that if I go anywhere, my actions should be becoming of a judge.”
He said if four lawyers went out on the street and got into an argument with a rickshaw driver or hawker then lawyers would suffer disrepute and a bad image.
If a judge of the high court continues to be a part of an institution or a tribunal after retirement then they should maintain their identity, he added. "The judge has to ensure that his decisions are in accordance with the institution."
"If retired individuals of the army will come and do wrongdoing in DHA then the army will be discredited. When a person becomes a part of an institution then they will be held accountable," said the chief justice.
He also questioned if anyone from the DHA was present in court. The judge had directed the DHA administrator to appear before the LHC today along with the complete record.
"The legal director has come from the DHA," said the DHA’s counsel Altafur Rehman Khan.
"The LDA (Lahore Development Authority) has become a party in this matter," said CJ Khan. "The LDA shouldn't [try to] be more loyal to the 'Shah' than the 'Shah' [themselves]."
CJ Khan said that the DHA had issued a letter after occupying the land and asked when the land in question had been taken over. "I cannot give the whole building of the high court to anyone today."
The legal director of the DHA also briefed the court on the matter.
"If someone illegally occupies my property then I can't force and pressure them to vacate," said CJ Khan, adding that proper legal procedure would have to be followed.
The counsel for the petitioners, Advocate Asif Imran Awan, said that according to a decision of the Supreme Court in 2007, DHA's right to the land had been suspended.
"This will become a bigger issue than the FATF (Financial Action Task Force)," said the chief justice.
The court ordered that no legal change be made in the status of the petitioners' land and also ordered the legal director of the DHA to appear on May 3 after receiving instructions from the DHA administration.
Petitioners Zeeshan Mehboob, Raheel Tufail and Zulfiqar Hussain had received different chunks of land allotted on a three-year lease from the ETPB for cultivation purposes in Mota Singhwala, Lidhar and Dera Chahal Mauzas near Bedian Road, Lahore. A counsel for the ETPB had told the court that the petitioners were the lawful owners of the land in question.
Additional reporting by Imran Gabol