SC reserves verdict on plea in Railways land scam

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ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its verdict on a joint petition against irregularities of over Rs 25 billion in the leasing of 1,128 kanals of Railways’ land in Lahore to a Malaysian consortium associated with two Lahore-based companies – Husnain Construction Company (Pvt) Ltd and Unicon Consulting Service (Pvt) Ltd, which constructed Royal Palm Golf and Country Club Lahore on the land.
A two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Justice Ghulam Rabbani reserved its verdict after lawyers for the parties concluded their arguments. Pakistan Railways Director General (Audit) Irfan Jahangir also presented a report stating that the deal had caused a loss of over Rs 290 million to the Railways Department. He said the same tender was accepted twice under various conditions, adding that the contract was signed the day it was approved.
Jahangir said the original file of the contract was also missing. The counsel for the Railways’ secretary presented the entire record of the deal and transaction stating that his client had clearly instructed him to assist the court and place all relevant record and facts before it to help it reach a just decision. Concluding his arguments, Makhdoom Ali Khan, counsel for Husnain Construction Company (Pvt) Ltd, denied the figures presented by the Railways contending that the transaction did not cause any loss to the department.
He said his client had paid Rs 40 million to the government last year and had invested over Rs 1.5 billion on the project. He said Railways land had been acquired on a 49-year lease and his client would pay Rs 10 billion to the Railways. Defending the deal, Ali Raza, counsel for Royal Palm Golf and Country Club, contended that the deal was carried out in the parameters of rules and regulations.
Mian Allah Nawaz, counsel for the petitioner – Ishaq Khan Khakwani and Dr Mubashir Hassan, contended that the Railways land was leased out to Royal Palm Golf and Country Club in Lahore in a highly objectionable manner in 2001. He said the area to be leased out initially was around 824 kanals. However, it was increased to 1,128 kanals later.
Besides, he said the period of the lease was also extended to 49 years from 33 years in a shadowy manner. He said the deal was executed between the government and the private company secretly, which was against the provisions of Article 4 of the constitution.