Top court pulls the chain on railway land deals


–Pakistan Railways allowed to lease land for a maximum period of five years, barred from selling it

–CJP says apex court will hear Royal Palm case separately


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday prohibited the Pakistan Railways from selling land the federal institution owns in federal and provincial territories and wrapped up the case over the matter.

The directives were issued as a three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar resumed hearing of the case regarding railways land.

“The SC has imposed a ban on the sale of railways land. Railways land is the property of the federation and the department can lease it but not sell it,” the top judge remarked as proceedings began.

“Provinces can use railways’ land but cannot sell it. However, land should not be leased for 99 years.”

In response, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed informed the court that “we are not even selling a single square yard of land. Some land has been leased for three to five years”.

“Railways department is earning Rs3 billion annually through its land. If leases are cancelled, then railways department will suffer losses,” he elaborated. However, the bench, in response to the ministers’ statement, said that  “the land which is in use by the railways cannot be sold”.

“Land which is not required for railways’ operations can be leased for a period of five years and the Pakistan Railways does not have the permission to construct any housing society,” it added.

Further, the railways was directed to prevent encroachments on land it owns.

The bench stated that “we are separating the Royal Palm Club case from this matter and will hear it separately”.

“The interim order on the Royal Palm Club case will uphold.”

During the last hearing, the apex court banned the construction of housing societies on railways’ land, while taking Royal Palm Golf and Country Club (RPGCC) into judicial custody and ordered that its records be seized.

The court also nullified all previous orders given by the Lahore High Court (LHC) pertaining to the golf and country club. It directed that no records pertaining to the land shall be allowed to leave the premises of the club.

Then, the court dissolved the administration of Royal Palm and appointed the accounting firm Ferguson & Co to seize all records and conduct a forensic audit.

The court told Ramzan Sheikh, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the club, and his staff to relinquish charge of the club to the auditing firm for the audit. It added that until an audit is complete, the club shall not rest with Sheikh or Pakistan Railways (PR).

The court further ordered that the old administration will not be allowed access to the club, however, all planned activities shall continue as planned.

The records of all cases pertaining to the club in the high court are also to be seized.