Institutions shouldn’t be in real estate business: IHC

Court reserves verdict in Naval Farms Housing Scheme and Navy Sailing Club case

Saqib Bashir October 17, 2020


The Islamabad High Court on Saturday observed that state institutions should not be involved in the business of setting up housing societies.

“What rules and regulations allow the armed forces to involve themselves in such matters?” IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked as the court reserved its verdict on petitions filed against the construction of the Naval Farms Housing Scheme and Navy Sailing Club.

The judge noted that setting up housing societies was a private business and the state was responsible for the welfare of the people.

“The Constitution does not allow the armed forces to indulge in these matters that end up in courts,” he added.

“During the proceedings [of this case], the faces of martyrs including [Captain] Karnal Sher Khan kept flashing before my eyes. This court also keeps them into consideration. The respect for institutions must remain intact and they should not involve themselves in these matters.”

The IHC chief justice noted that armed forces indulging in matters like running real estate business weakened civilian institutions.

“This is why the CDA [Capital Development Authority] can’t even have its own notification implemented. What further will it do?”

The judge wondered what would have happened if parliamentarians had used public funds in a similar situation.

Malik Qamar Afzal, the lawyer representing the Naval Farms, submitted the fedal government notification dated 1981 to the court that allowed the establishment of the Bahria Foundation.

To the court’s query, the lawyer said the Bahria Foundation was still functional.

The court inquired as to what law allowed the Pakistan Navy to purchase land.

The lawyer replied that the land was not purchased by the Pakistan Navy but by a directorate that operated independently.

He added that the Naval Farms was a Bahria Foundation project.

Justice Minallah asked the lawyer as to who would be held responsible if the Bahria Foundation defaulted on its loans.

“Will the naval chief be held accountable for that?” he inquired.

The court observed that if the Bahria Foundation was a private scheme, it must have been subjected to an audit.

The lawyer responded that he had no knowledge of the foundation being audited.

The IHC chief justice then asked the CDA representative as to under which law had a government department been allowed to set up a housing society.

“You will have to satisfy the court as to why did you give the permission for this.”

A CDA lawyer told the court that a no-objection certificate was issued for farming purposes.

He added that the Navel Farms violated the rules after obtaining the NOC and now it would have to apply for a new certificate.

In July, the court had ordered to seal off the Pakistan Navy Sailing Club at Rawal Lake observing that prima facie the occupation of the land for the leisure facility and its construction were illegal.

Justice Minallah had noted at an earlier hearing that the violation of law by the officers of the armed forces was tantamount to jeopardising the dignity of the uniform.

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