ISLAMABAD - The auditor general of Pakistan yesterday told the Supreme Court that the management of Defence Housing Authority was not allowing them to audit its accounts.

Auditor General Rana Asad Ameen, appearing before a three-judge bench, said they wrote six letters to the DHA for audit of its accounts, but the management did not cooperate. He said the DHA told them that it is a private entity, but according to the DHA ordinance, it is a statutory body.

Chief Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said: “The Supreme Court has held in Hamid Mir vs State case that the AGP is empowered to audit the accounts of all statutory bodies.” Justice Dost Muhammad said if DHA is not producing record, you can raise an audit para. Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked the constitution is very clear that if some statutory body is not cooperating with the AGP, he could approach the apex court against that organisation.

The Punjab prosecutor general said the DHA has not only occupied 156 kanals of land of a private person, but also has encroached upon 137 kanals of the Punjab government, 64 kanals allotted by former prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo for katchi abadi dwellers in Lahore and 15 acres of army dairy farm.

Shahid Hamid, amicus curiae (a friend of court), pointed out that the DHA was originally Lahore Cantt Cooperative Housing Society (LCCHS), registered on March 19, 1975, as per provisions of Section 10 of the Cooperative Societies Act, 1925.

On July 2, 1999, the Punjab governor promulgated the Defence Housing Authority Ordinance 1999 and the DHA Lahore was established. On September 19, 2002, Pervez Musharraf issued the Chief Executive’s Order No.26 of 2002 (CE 26/2002), empowering the federal government to set up the DHA, Lahore, and dissolved the DHA setup under the provincial ordinance.

He contended that under CE 26/2002, the DHA Lahore was established as a local government for the areas notified by DHA itself. He said the DHA Lahore exercises most of powers of a local government, but is managed by a non-elected governing body and executive board, so the CE 26/2002 is in violation of Article 140A of the Constitution.

He stated appropriate legislature in the matters relating to DHA Lahore is now the Punjab Assembly, so its management, including the governing body and the executive board set up under Article 4 of CE 26/2002 must necessarily be changed as it comprises the army officers not under the administrative control of the provincial government. He requested the court to issue an order in this regard. He further prayed to the court to revoke Article 7(2) (a) of CE 26/2002 empowering the executive board of DHA to acquire any land in accordance with Land Acquisition Act, 1894, as it is against articles 4 and 25 of the Constitution. “All compulsory acquisitions of land, whether for public purposes or companies, are to be made by the revenue administration, and there should be no reasonable basis for making an exception to this universal rule in the case of DHA alone.”

The senior lawyer said Article 8 of CE 26/2002 empowers the DHA to raise funds in a manner which its executive board may deem appropriate through loans or levy of any charges. He said there are no limits prescribed on the borrowing that may be made by the executive board. There are also no guidelines as to what charges may be levied and collected. “Under articles 166 and 167 of the Constitution even borrowing by the federal and provincial governments are subject to the limits prescribed by the legislatures, while under articles 77 and 127 taxes can only be levied under acts of Parliament or the provincial assemblies,” he said.

Shahid Hamid said prima facie, the uncontrolled and unguided powers conferred on the executive board of DHA through Article 8 of CE 26/2002 are violation of the constitutional provisions.

He stated that, according to Article 4(5) of CE 26/2002, chief of the army staff shall appoint a serving brigadier as an administrator. He said: “Prima facie, such appointment is against Pakistan Army Act 1952. Nothing in Section 2(a&b) or any other provision of the Army Act even empowers the federal government to appoint serving army officers to statutory authorities, carrying out business of development and sale of plots.” The counsel further contended that Article 13 of CE 26/2002 empowers the DHA to itself decide and notify the areas in which it intends to establish housing schemes. The lawyer said in the last few years the DHA Lahore has not only vastly extended its operations in Lahore but also notified schemes in Bahawalpur, Multan and Gujranwala.