ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Friday summoned Railway Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed on non-compliance of its earlier orders in a suo motu case regarding illegal occupation of railway land.

The suo motu notice was taken by former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in April 2009 on the news clipping of Daily Nawa-e-Waqt.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered Railway Minister Sheikh Rasheed to appear after expressing dissatisfaction on the response of railways’ legal adviser.

During the hearing, the CJP remarked that the land under use of railways is state’s land and the railways is not authorised to sell out these lands.

The Chief Justice further observed that this court had directed the Ministry of Railways and federal government for reply which has not been submitted.

A counsel Sardar Aslam informed the bench that the Ministry of Law was asked for its opinion regarding the ownership of land but every department is in blame game and not taking any responsibility.

Another counsel Afshan Ghazanfar informed the bench that a railways track was spread from Bhuan to Mandran from 1886 to 1994.

She informed the bench that the 75km track had been dismantled and out of this 75km, a 45km track’s land had been sold to private individuals while commercial activities are being carried out on the remaining land.

She further informed the bench that housing societies were also established on the land and the plots had been sold.

The CJ asked as to who owns the land. Advocate Aslam informed the bench that the railways lands belong to state.

The Chief Justice remarked that no one is ready from the ministry to respond so this court is summoning the minister.

During the hearing, Advocate General Sindh informed the bench that those unutilised lands owned by provinces and currently with railways should be returned to government’s possession. The same stance was taken by the Additional Advocate General Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Chief Justice also directed all the provinces to submit their applications in this regard as well. The hearing of the case has been adjourned till December 24.  

According to the Pakistan Railways in 1991 and 1997 the Railways Section from Mandra to Bhaun was closed and a part of the rail track was to be auctioned according to the decision of the Railway Board.

Out of a total 75km, 45km track was sold and remaining part was dismantled by the Railway department itself for use in other segments of Pakistan Railway and a negligible length of 1.5 km exists at the Mandra end.  The top court in its order dated August 10, 2009, had observed that the decision of tail track of the said section was taken as far back as 1991 and finally in 1997.

The Pakistan Railway at that time had stated that total land belonging to the Railways departmet as part of this track was extensive, but out of this land, 107 acres was occupied by unauthorized persons and steps were being taken to retrieve the land from them.

On the assurance of the Pakistan Railways that the land shall not be allowed to be occupied by the unauthorised persons, the top court had disposed of the matter with the directions to submit the progress.