Supreme Court judge recuses himself from bench in plots case

Published November 2, 2021
Supreme Court Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. — Photo via SC website
Supreme Court Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. — Photo via SC website

ISLAMABAD: A Sup­reme Court judge on Mon­day withdrew himself from the bench that has taken up for hearing a set of petitions moved by the Federal Gov­ernment Employees Hou­sing Authority (FGEHA) as well as its director general against the Aug 20 restraining order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against allotment of prized plots in the federal capital.

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, who recused himself from the bench, is one of the beneficiaries of the allotment of plots in two sectors of Islamabad.

The bench also comprised Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.

The petitioners had sou­ght to set aside the Aug 20 IHC restraining order of suspending the allotments made in favour of the judicial officers, who were serving or had served in the high court and the Islamabad district courts.

At the outset of the proce­edings, Justice Shah app­ri­sed other members of the be­nch about his decision after which Justice Bandial referred the matter back to Chief Justice of Pakistan Gul­zar Ahmed for the reconstitution of the bench with a request for early hearing on Nov 8.

Senior counsel Mohammad Akram Sheikh and Mohammad Munir Paracha represented the petitioners, respectively.

In its order, the IHC had not only fixed the matter before a larger bench for further hearing but also expressed its surprise that in the balloting regarding allotment of plots in sectors F-14 and F-15, virtually every judicial officer of the district courts of Islamabad who was expected to resolve and adjudicate upon the grievances and rights of the affected land owners was a beneficiary.

The high court had also held that this prima facie, raised serious questions regarding conflict of interest as the plots were given to the beneficiaries at substantially lower prices than the current market rates and thus each beneficiary had financial interest. Moreover, astonishingly, the list also included those judicial officers who had been dismissed for corruption or misconduct.

According to the appeals, the high court cannot exercise suo motu jurisdiction under Article 199 of the Constitution, but can only invoke this provision on the application of an aggrieved party.

The appeals reminded the apex court that the petitioners had not challenged land acquisition before the IHC. The IHC in its order had raised questions which were neither taken up by the petitioners nor any prayer to that effect was made in the writ petition, the appeal argued. This amounted to exercise of suo motu power that the high court did not have, the appeals argued, claiming that the IHC order was therefore patently illegal.

The appeals mentioned that the IHC while exercising jurisdiction under Article 199 could not travel beyond the grievance of an aggrieved party or a person. All contentious issues being raised by before IHC had been adequately resolved with admirable clarity by the larger bench of the Supreme Court and therefore the high court Aug 20 order was not sustainable in law, the petitioners contended.

Being a public institution, the FGEHA was functioning to provide shelter to federal government employees and retirees but it had been made dysfunctional and scandalized in media by the vested interests, the petitioners alleged. They argued that the IHC order had created a strong sense of concern among members of the FGEHA schemes and allottees across Islamabad and other capital cities.

The appeals further argued it was imperative that the adjudication of this matter of great public importance be in line with constitutional scheme of adjudication and without any influence from the parties involved so that FGEHA could continue its work uninterrupted and unhampered for the benefit of its members.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

The establishment pivot
18 Jan, 2022

The establishment pivot

It is a sad reality that the power matrix continues to revolve around the establishment.
18 Jan, 2022

Remittances growth

THE hefty growth in remittances from Pakistanis living abroad continues to defy forecasts to the contrary. New State...
18 Jan, 2022

China-Iran deal

THE China-Iran strategic deal that has recently taken effect is more than just a long-term bilateral agreement...
Security policy unveiled
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Security policy unveiled

PAKISTAN’S freshly unveiled National Security Policy has broadened the traditional concept and included economic...
Bold decisions
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Bold decisions

IT is a double blow within a matter of days. The Islamabad High Court’s order last week to demolish a navy golf...
17 Jan, 2022

Rohingya camp blaze

A HUGE blaze in a refugee camp housing members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh last week has left up to ...