ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court has ordered Sindh's Board of Revenue to take criminal action against officials involved in manipulating the revenue record and illegally transferring more than 50 acres land of a deceased couple.

“Let a copy of this judgment be sent to the Member, Board of Revenue so that appropriate disciplinary action shall be taken against such officials of the revenue department who have manipulated the relevant revenue record. In case any of them has retired, criminal action may be initiated”, said an order authored by Justice Faisal Arab in a land dispute matter which was arisen two decades ago.

The dispute pertains to 56 acres and 28 ghuntas of land situated in Deh and Taluqa Tando Adam, District Sanghar. A big part of this land was an evacuee land, which was granted to Shah Azizullah Abbasi and her wife Tayyeba Khatoon against their claim. He died on May 30, 1992 and was survived by his widow Tayyeba Khatoon, son and a daughter. On September 17, 2002 Khatoon also died.

To seek transfer of the land in the revenue record in their names daughter and son approached the Mukhtiarkar but were told that their parents had already sold the property to two individuals.

The litigation was continued at different forums. The Senior Civil Judge, Tando Adam on April 30, 2010 held that both individuals have failed to establish that Abbasi and Khatoon, the parents, of the respondents No. 1 & 2 (daughter and son) have sold the land to them. 

However, the Additional District Judge, Tando Adam on September 24, 2011 reversed the judgment, which was set aside by the Sindh High Court (SHC). Lastly, both individuals challenged the SHC verdict in the apex court, wherein they failed to prove their case.

The three-judge bench of the top court headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising by Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah heard the matter, wherein complete revenue record was summoned.

The top court in its verdict wondered that the disputed sale transactions made in 1986 and 1987 are based merely on oral statements purportedly made by Abbasi and his wife before the revenue authorities and allegedly witnessed by persons namely Furqan son of Gul Muhammad Mirani, Noor Muhammad Sheikh son of Ladhu Khan Sheikh, Sher Muhammad son of Babu Khan Bhatti and Muhammad Yaqoob son of Qaiser Junejo none of whom are from the side of the parents of respondents No. 1 & 2.

Additionally, the order noted that the disputed statements neither contains their CNIC numbers nor their addresses, and only their purported thumb impressions which show that they were also illiterate.

“Although the CNIC numbers would have helped in confirming that these witnesses actually affixed their thumb impressions on the revenue record but due to the absence of the CNIC numbers, it could not be verified from NADRA’s database. In any case, as none of the witnesses of the disputed statements were examined in Court, it is sufficient to hold that the transaction of sale has not been proved," stated the order.

The court also noted that from the examination of the register of village Forms VII, the page that contains one of the two disputed transfer entries is numbered as ‘58’. The font of the page number ‘58’ is quite bigger than the page numbers on the remaining pages of the same register; that the imprint of page number ‘58’ is also much darker than the imprint of the rest of the page numbers of the same register.

 “We may mention here that when pages of a register are numbered with a numbering machine, it is not possible that the size of numbers on pages would be different. Even the impression of ink on a particular page of a register would be the same in comparison to previous and subsequent pages. Either the impression would be light or darker but in the present case the impression on page No. ‘58’ is much pronounced i.e. it is darker than the impression of page numbers on the earlier and subsequent pages. This page also appears to have been subsequently inserted in the register as it is taped from the spine. All this further leads us to draw inference that page number ‘58’ was not part of the same register but has been subsequently inserted with the intention to show a back dated transaction in order to defeat the plea of limitation in case the matter is taken to court," it added.

 With regard to the disputed sale transaction of 20-34 acres allegedly entered into with Khatoon, the order further added that it was pleaded that she being resident of Karachi came to Tando Adam with her relative to record her oral statement for transferring the land.

Interestingly, relative was not made a witness in the purported statement, the top court observed adding: "then the alleged witnesses of the disputed statement were also not examined in court."  It is further observed that witnesses' CNIC numbers too have not been recorded nor have their addresses been given. "Even the CNIC number of Mst. Tayyeba Khatoon is not mentioned in the statement. This second sale transaction also could not be proved."