LHC asked to expunge CJ’s remarks about army as ‘land grabbers’

The counsel for Defence Housing Authority (DHA) on Thursday asked the Lahore High Court (LHC) to expunge the remarks made by its chief justice, Mohammad Qasim Khan, as the CJ a day ago had termed the army as the “biggest land grabber”.

Hearing three petitions against DHA, LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Wednesday had directed DHA Administrator Brigadier Waheed Gul Sati, commissioner and deputy commissioner of Lahore to appear before the court on Thursday.

The CJ also directed the Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) to instruct all the station house officers (SHOs) to register first information reports (FIRs) on complaints of illegal occupation against the DHA.

The chief justice, while hearing petitions of three citizens seeking protection of the lawful possession of the land they had obtained on lease from the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), had regretted that the army had also grabbed a piece of land measuring 50-kanal owned by the high court.

The CJ had said that he would instruct the LHC registrar to write a letter to the chief of the army staff in this regard. He had said that the bar also remained indifferent to the issue.

Presiding over the hearing today, CJ Khan said that 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.”

In response, the CJ said that his remarks were merely about the conduct of “some people of yours”. “Probably more than half of my family is in the army,” he added during Thursday’s hearing.

“Respect for institutions is paramount, the court’s remarks were not meant to hurt anyone,” CJ Khan maintained. “These remarks were made for a few people.”

“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.”

Comparing the matter to his own post, the CJ said that he was told that if he should go anywhere, he must always act like a judge. He remarked that if any lawyer was seen on the street arguing with a rickshaw driver, then they would have to suffer from a worsened reputation.

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.

“The legal director has come from the DHA,” said the DHA’s counsel Altafur Rehman Khan in response to the judge’s question of whether anyone from the DHA administration had come to court.

“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.

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