ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared the agreement between the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) null and void.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry while deciding a suo moto case pertaining to the ETPB land of billions of rupees sold for peanuts, declared the agreement void and ordered for initiating criminal proceedings against ETPB Chairman Asif Hashmi and others, adding that FIA should soon complete the investigation.

The Chief Justice had taken suo moto notice on a letter sent by members of Sikh community stating therein that Asif Akhtar Hashmi, Chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), had been selling the evacuee property especially attached to their worship places. “We are of the considered opinion that transaction of ETPB for making investment of Rs 986.00 million was contrary to the interest of ETPB and against the instructions of the government as well as section 4(2) of the Act, 1975, in view of the law laid down in Pervaiz Oliver’s case,” the court ruled.

The court noticed that in the transactions entered into by ETPB with DHA Lahore and Islamabad, numerous illegalities/irregularities and violations of financial instructions, have been committed along with violation of laws.

The court directed Secretary Ministry of Minorities Affairs to arrange forensic audit of the ETPB for the last five years and on the receipt of the report actions, both civil and criminal, should be taken against the delinquents, in accordance with the law.

It was informed that at present position of chairman Evacuee Trust Properties Board is lying vacant, therefore the court directed the federal government to take necessary measures for the appointment of chairman, in terms of section 3(3) of the Act, 1975 as early as could be possible in the interest of the institution.

It is worth mentioning here that the ETPB’s chairman and members of the board in pursuance of the decision, which was taken as an additional Agenda No. 5 in the 272nd meeting held on 16.04.2009 made investment of Rs.986.00 million but without settling the terms and conditions and realising that there is absolutely no existence of ‘Elysium Ranches DHA, Islamabad”, says the order.

The court observed that the recovery of principle amount has already been made under the order of this Court both Sharjeel Shah Muhammad, CEO HLC and Hamad Arshad CEO EHP were also bound to pay mark up on Rs 986.00 million from the date of its payment and passing the order of this Court as they had benefited from this amount without extending any profit to ETPB and in the same manner, chairman ETPB and members as well secretary of ministry of minorities affairs, who endorsed such deal which was in fact non-existent is liable to be dealt with according to law.

The court ruled that matter relating to acquisition of Evacuee Trust land situated in Mauza Lidhar, Mauza Mota Singh Wala and Mauza Dera Chahal Tehsil Cantt. Lahore by the Defence Housing Authority Lahore, vide decision dated 16.04.2009 of ETPB taken in its 272nd meeting approving the revised offer of DHA for exemption of 25 per cent residential plots is unlawful, being contrary to section 4(2) of the Evacuee Trust Properties (Management & Disposal) Act, 1975, as the earlier decision taken on 23.07.2007 by ETP Board in its 263rd meeting was in accordance with the law as DHA in its letter has already agreed on 20.07.2007 that ETPB land would be acquired by DHA at 33% exemption of residential plots (measuring 1-Kanal each) as a result whereof DHA had to provide 642 residential plots on acquiring 1946-Kanals of ETPB land, in addition to DHA’s offer of 100 x commercial plots on payment as for DHA members i.e. 16% of residential plots instead of 10%.

The court ruled that as the decision of the Board with regard to deal of ETPB and subsequent approval given by the Government vide letter No.P(3)/DSP/530/ETPB/07/LHR/3266 dated 29.04.2009 is void, and is of no legal consequences. Therefore, option is being given to DHA to accept the ETP Board’s decision taken in 263rd meeting dated 23.07.2007 and handover the developed residential and commercial plots, details of which have been given hereinabove, to the ETPB.

Acceptance of this offer must be communicated to ETPB within 30 days after receipt hereof, failing to which DHA shall be bound to refund the land owned by ETPB situated in Mauza Lidhar, Mauza Mota Singh Wala and Mauza Dera Chahal etc, says the order.

The court noted that DHA has acquired more land than agreed upon, therefore, senior member board of revenue, government of Punjab, is directed to make arrangement for the demarcation of the properties owned by ETPB and ensure the restoration of the excess land; and on non-acceptance of option noted above, total land so occupied/acquired shall be delivered back to ETPB by DHA by reversing the mutation entries and also cancelling the sale deeds, executed between the parities referred to in the judgment.

The court ruled that DHA shall not be entitled to recover any compensation if it has paid to obtain the possession from the lessee or on the development of land, as no evidence has been brought on record. However, to substantiate the same, if so advised, DHA has to resort to the court of law to prove its claim by adducing evidence as it has been held in the matter of action regarding joint venture agreement between CDA and Multi-Professional Cooperative Housing Society (PLD 2011 SC 619).

The court further ruled that in respect of both the transactions i.e. DHA, Lahore land acquiring of Mauza Lidhar, Mauza Mota Singh Wala and Mauza Dera Chahal etc as well as DHA, Islamabad, call for civil and criminal proceedings against the former Chairman, Asif Akhtar Hashmi and all others, who were directly or indirectly responsible for the same.

The court ruled that the inquiry already initiated by FIA shall be expedited to be concluded as early as could be possible and compliance report shall be sent to the registrar for our perusal in chambers for appropriate orders if needed.