ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court of Pakistan Thursday conditionally allowed Pakistan Railways to lease its land after getting approval of its rules from the Parliament or the federal cabinet.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial conducted hearing of review petition of the federal government against the SC lease ban order.
Former Chief Justice in January 2019 had barred Pakistan Railways from leasing its land in the Centre and the provinces for five years. However, in June 2021 ex-CJP Gulzar Ahmed, hearing the case of circular railways at SC Karachi Registry, had imposed complete ban and stopped the authorities from selling, transferring and leasing the lands owned by railways.
The Chief Justice said that the status of the land intended to be leased should not be changed, adding no construction be made on the Railways land that have parks.The Railways should get the approval of its rules regarding the lease of land from the parliament or cabinet.
Earlier, Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman submitted the Railways business plan. The bench on January 4, 2023 had sought a detailed report from Pakistan Railways regarding its land and future planning to make the institution profitable. He informed that presently the Railways total land is 169,000 acres. Out of that 126,000 acres in used for operation purpose, while 16,742 acres are kept for future planning, told Aamir Rehman.
The report said that 9,985 acres land is encroached, while 10,750 acres land is on lease. The AAG stated that after the Supreme Court order Railways’ income worth Rs2.5 billion stopped. The chief justice noted that the report did not provide the details of income and expenditure. Railways Secretary requested the bench to allow the Railways to keep its share after given the land on lease.
Justice Bandial said that it is not the job of the State to do business, adding that all over the world the state institutions do not involve in business in traditional sense. He further said that the State institutions are in losses because they are overburdened. He said that any department before conducting business should get permission from the parliament or cabinet.
Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan noted that it is no solution that the Railways by leasing out its land to overcome its losses. He said if the Railways starts doing on the State land then it would affect the public trust, adding the Railways should be careful in its business plan, as it could not ignore market dynamics.He said that for the continuity the Railways should have an effective plan, and reduce its expenses.
The Chief Justice said that Railways should grow jungle on its unused 6,000 acres land, adding the best use of agri land is to grow jungle.
Barrister Zafarullah, appearing on behalf of Railways, said if the court permit then the policy and rules for Railways would be placed before the cabinet. The chief justice said that there should be reasonable justification behind Railways plans.
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