ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a plea moved by a real estate investor against a high court judgement concerning a commercial property located in Raja Bazaar Rawalpindi belonging to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB).

A two-judge Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi had taken up the plea moved by Raja Ali Zaman (deceased).

The case concerned the sale of the property in 1992 in pursuance of the approval of the then federal minister for social welfare in 1977.

The commercial property was under the control of ETPB and was initially rented out to Raja Ali Zaman and Raja Mohammad Banaras (vendees) by the then competent authority on behalf of the ETPB. The tenants approached the then federal minister for social welfare and rural development for outright sale of the property to them.

Consequently, through a March 22, 1977, letter, the request was accorded but the federal government in a memorandum dated May 13, 1977, restrained the ETPB from finalising the deal.

But on June 6, 1992, the deputy administrator ETPB Rawalpindi executed the sale deed in favour of the vendees.

Subsequently, the ETBP challenged the sale deed on different grounds in Lahore High Court (LHC). The plea in the Supreme Court was filed against the LHC judgement.

The appellants argued before the court that they had a valid sale deed executed in 1992 through the ETPB official on the basis of a letter of the concerned ministry, thus there was valid sale deed and the order of high court was not sustainable.

Senior counsel Hafiz Ahsaan Ahmad Khokhar, who appeared before the apex court on behalf of ETPB, told Dawn that he argued that the then federal minister in year 1977 had no authority under the ETPB’s law to accord approval for such an alleged sale and no evacuee property could be sold and disposed of outside the scope of Evacuee Trust Properties (Management and Disposal) Act 1975.

The lawyer also submitted that in league with certain ETPB officials, private parties got a letter issued and executed a sale deed by sheer misrepresentation and without prior approval of the federal government, adding a letter obtained through collusion could not be treated as the direction of the federal government.

He also argued that disciplinary action was taken and recommended against officials involved in the collusive sale deed, stating that the meaning of the federal government and conduct of its business has been mentioned and prescribed in Articles 99 and 173 of the constitution.

Thus, the executive actions on behalf of the federal government could earlier be done in the name of the president. Now, after the 18th constitutional amendment, it is done by the cabinet. The sale executed in year 1992 in favour of the private appellants based on the approval of the minister in 1977 undoubtedly was unauthorised, and executed by incompetent authority violative to the Evacuee Trust Property Board 1975 and the constitution and could not be protected.

He argued that there was neither any approval by ETPB nor by the federal government regarding such an alleged sale deed and the entire case was made and started by the appellant on the letter of approval by then federal minister, which under the law he did not have the authority to issue such instructions.

Moreover, the evacuee property could only be sold after adopting due process and with the approval of the board and then on such recommendations to the federal government under Sections 4, 6 of the Evacuee Trust Property Board 1975, whereas in the present case there was no such approval of any alleged sale deed given by either the ETPB or by the federal government.

The ETPB lawyer contended that the high court had rightly considered all the points and decided on merit and prayed before the court that the appeal of private appellants and the application of others be rejected and the judgment of the high court be upheld.

The Supreme Court after hearing both the sides dismissed the appeal along with other applications and upheld the high court order.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2022

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