The Lahore High Court Monday dismissed seven identical petitions challenging the proposed establishment of Journalist Housing Colony under the Punjab Journalists Housing Foundation Act, 2004, and declared it in the public interests.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed dismissing petitions by Chaudhry Nazir Ahmad and others in his detailed judgment observed that petitioners who were alleged occupants of the Evacuee Trust Property had no right to that land and the establishment of Journalist Colony was in the public interests. “The overwhelming majority of people eligible for allotment of plots are working journalists,” the court observed. “It is also clear that the entire exercise is not a commercial venture for the benefit of any particular individual developer. Similarly, unusual safeguards against speculation have also been put into place”, the court added. Thus, there is nothing in the act nor the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, which could persuade to this court to hold that the beneficiaries of the colony are not a segment of citizens of Pakistan, it further observed.

The court held that the said land was allotted to claimants for adjustment against pending verified PIUs (claims) and the apex court on examining such allotments concluded that the land in question was “building sites” and not available for transfer either as agricultural urban land or as agricultural land as the same was situated within the municipal limits of Lahore and were deemed to be building sites.

In the light of the apex court judgment, the land in question “became available” in terms of Section 3 of the Evacuee Property and Displaced Persons Laws (Repeal) Act XIV of 1975 on June 25, 1997 from the date thereof, the court held.

Establishment of colony for journalists under the auspices of the Punjab Journalists Housing Foundation Act, 2004 is in public interest, both in terms of the Punjab Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and paragraph 30 of the scheme for the Management and Disposal of Available Urban Properties 1977.

And the transfer or acquisition of land for the said purpose is not a violation of articles 23 and 24 of the Constitution, the court observed.

Petitioners claimed that the land in question had been purchased by them and other occupants from ostensible owners through registered sale deeds and other documents. They said that a large number of people were residing at the said land.

However, the Punjab chief minister approved a summary on November 11, 2004, directing that petitioners and other occupants of the land, who are bona fide purchasers, would be adjusted on the land in their occupation.

The Punjab advocate general said that the land was being acquired for a public purpose and the government alone was vested with the jurisdiction to determine whether a particular purpose was in the public interest or not.

Source: The Post