ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah on Friday suspended allotment of plots to the capital’s judiciary in sectors F-14 and F-15, observing that this award of land was sheer conflict of interest.
The court also issued a notice to the attorney general and sought an explanation from the Ministry of Housing and Works on the policy of distribution of plots among a few segments of the society. A larger bench has been constituted to hear the matter on Sept 13.
It may be mentioned that the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority (FGEHA), during balloting, allotted plots to Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and other judges of the superior judiciary as well as bureaucrats, including Dr Waqar Masood Khan and Dr Shahzad Arbab, who were elevated as special assistants to the prime minister after retiring from government service.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah was hearing a petition filed by property owners in villages Thalla Syedan and Jhangi Syedan in Islamabad district against acquisition of their land.
During the hearing of the matter, Justice Minallah remarked: “It has been reported that the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority had recently held a ballot for allotment of plots in F-14 and F-15. The list indicates that virtually every judicial officer of the district courts of Islamabad, who are expected to resolve and adjudicate upon the grievances and rights of the affected land owners, is a beneficiary.”
“It, prima facie, raises serious questions regarding conflict of interest because the plots are given to the beneficiaries at substantially lower prices than the current market rates and thus each beneficiary has financial interest,” he said, adding that, “moreover, astonishingly the list also includes those judicial officers who have been dismissed on account of misconduct or corruption.”
Justice Minallah observed that the judicial officer who was convicted and sentenced by this court, and the conviction was later upheld by the august Supreme Court in the case of a child namely Tayyaba, was also one of the beneficiaries.
Similarly, “the judicial officer who was dismissed on corruption charges in the fake degree [Axact] case is also an allottee,” the IHC chief justice remarked.
As per the record of the FGEHA, three sacked additional district and sessions judges — Pervaizul Qadir Memon, Raja Khurram Ali Khan and Jahangir Awan — were allotted a kanal plot each in F-14 and F-15 while two former civil judges, Adnan Jamali and Amir Khalil, were given plots measuring 14 marlas each in these sectors.
Mr Memon was dismissed from service in Feb 2018 for taking bribe to acquit Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MS Axact Shoaib Sheikh.
Raja Khurram Ali Khan was convicted and terminated from service in Tayyaba torture case while Jahangir Awan was dismissed last year for resorting to firing in the air during a brawl on Constitution Avenue.
Civil Judges Jamali and Khalil were also sacked by the IHC administration.
As per the court’s order, the names of judicial officers who are under observation for alleged incompetence are also among the beneficiaries.
Justice Minallah questioned that how the government could reward a public servant who had been dismissed for corruption or misconduct.
It may be mentioned here that while the judges of the IHC refused FGEHA’s offer of plots, the judges of subordinate judiciary submitted applications and the authority allotted plots to each judge during balloting on Aug 17, 2021.
According to the FGEHA’s list, those who have been allotted one kanal plot under the quota reserved for the federal capital are sessions judges Tanvir Mir, Khalid Mehmood Ranjha, Malik Nazir Ahmed, Khaqan Babar, Mohammad Khalid Nawaz, Mumtaz Hussain, Syed Kausar Abbas Zaidi, Sabir Sultan, Nisar Baig, Abdul Qayyum Khan, Sohail Ikram, Iram Niazi, Shiraz Kayani, Sohail Nasir, Aqil Hussan Chohan, Ameer Mohammad Khan, Abdul Jabbar, Mohammad Bashir, Mohammad Nadeem Arshad, Kamran Basharat Mufti, Azam Khan, Atta Rabbani, Raja M. Ajmal Khan, Mohammad Jahangir, Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan, Farah Jamshed, Zeba Chaudhry, Pervaizul Qadir, Wajid Ali, Raja Asif Mehmood, Raja Khurram Ali Khan, Mohammad Adnan, Sikander Khan, Abida Sajjad, Rakhshanda Shaheen, Syed Faizan Haider, Shahrukh Arjumand and Tahir Mehmood.
Among the senior civil judges are Aamir Aziz Khan, Abdul Ghafoor, Qudratullah, Nasruminallah, Mohammad Sohail, Mohammad Inamullah, Humayun Dilawar, Rasool Baksh Mirjat, Mohammad Adnan Jamali, Riwanuddin, M. Abbas, Raja Farrukh Ali Khan, Suhaib Bilal, Aamir Khalil and Mohammad Shabbir. They have been allotted 14 marla plot each under category II of the FGEHA.
As per the court’s orders, allotment of plots to officials of the IHC will also remain suspended.
Interestingly, the FGEHA allotted plots to those officials of the IHC whose appointment has been declared void by the Supreme Court. They include additional registrars Shahzada Islam, Qazi Shakeel and Umer Draz Shakir.
Justice Minallah observed that the IHC as well as the district courts of Islamabad were inundated with litigation against the FGEHA.
The authority has created substantial financial interest of almost every judicial officer of the district judiciary.
Citing the Supreme Court judgement in the case titled ‘Anwar and another v. The Crown’ [PLD 1955 FC 185] which has observed and held that “no judge can be a judge in his own cause.”
Justice Minallah cited another case titled ‘Federation of Pakistan v. Muhammad Akram Shaikh, etc.’ where the apex court has observed and held that “when pecuniary or financial interest of a judge, no matter however small, is likely to be affected as a direct result of the decision in any case, he is ipso facto, disqualified from hearing it…”.
The IHC chief justice observed that “it is obvious that pecuniary interests of the judicial officers are created when he or she, as the case may be, becomes a beneficiary of the extraordinary benefit of getting state land at prices significantly lower than the market prices. The perception of conflict of interest is enough to prejudice the confidence of the litigants in the judicial system.”
Meanwhile, the FGEHA, while responding to a news item published earlier, said: “It started registration under membership drive Phase-II on ‘age-wise seniority basis’ for federal government employees and other specified groups in April 2015 as per approved quota policy and eligibility criteria of the scheme.”
Almost 80,000 members got registered, including government servants from BS-1 to BS-22 as well as judges of superior/lower judiciary till May 2016, the FGEHA said, adding that the allottees whose names were included in balloting of plots for sectors F-14/15 were issued consent letters in 2016 whereas balloting was conducted to allocate them plot numbers only.
The housing authority further said that 1,704 allottees of F-14/15 of category-1 (BS-20 to BS-22) including judges, who fulfilled the approved policy of FGEHA, were allotted plots through random computerised balloting on 17-08-2021 in a transparent manner whereas 1,690 allottees of category-2 (BS-18 to BS-19) and 1,329 allottees in category-3 (BS-16 to BS-17) were also allotted plots.
All allotments have been made as per approved laid down criteria/policy of the FGEHA and the balloting has been conducted for allocation of plot numbers to bona-fide allottees under transparent computerised balloting, the housing authority said.