LAHORE  -  The country’s top court last week took up the matter of former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif’s appointment as member of board of directors of the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI), delay in completion of Orange Line Metro Train project, 66 years old case of inheritance of land and construction of a church in Kamoke, a town just a few kilometres from Gujranwala.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar questioned appointment of former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif as member of the board of the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI).

The bench perused the forensic report prepared by an expert, Zuber Kokab, on the institute at Supreme Court’s Lahore registry last week. The bench also saw a video of the substandard of construction of the PKLI that showed leakage in the rooftop of the institute and seepage on the wall. This state-of-the-art hospital was inaugurated by Shehbaz Sharif on June 30 this year.

The chief justice found that no approval was obtained from the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) prior to developing the mega project of PKLI. The bench sought a detailed report from the chairman of the Planning and Development Board.

The advocate general of Punjab and health secretary were present in the court. The forensic report said the project was originally conceived with an estimated cost of Rs12.70 billion, but its cost soared to over Rs53 billion with the passage of time. It said that as much as Rs20 billion had been spent on the project and another Rs33billion were proposed to be allocated in the next Punjab budget. The expert told the court that completion date of the entire project was set as December 2017, but it was not completed on the deadline.

During the proceedings, the court learnt through the report that former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, president of the institute Dr Saeed Akhtar, health secretary and others were illegally made members of the board of PLKI that had approved use of huge funds without lawful authority.

The chief justice questioned under which law the aforementioned people were appointed members of the PKLI board. The CJP also questioned the legal authority of the former chief minister to release funds. “The ‘Sultan’ did what he desired,” he observed in a sarcastic tone. The CJ said misuse of authority floats in the face of every affair of the institute.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said he wondered how the Punjab government delegated its powers to a private company. Another member on the bench, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, observed that PKLI appeared to be working without any law.

Justice Bandial said the court did not want to close down the hospital and suggested an implementation committee consisting of representatives of all stakeholders.

Taking up the case of Orange Line Metro Train project, the CJP expressed concern over delay in completion of the project in Lahore and sought progress reports from the Punjab chief secretary and other authorities concerned.

The chief justice noted that citizens suffered heavily due to construction work on the project and the court will not tolerate this anymore. “This project should now be completed in hours instead of days,” he added.

Chief Justice Nisar was heading a three-judge bench seized with a case involving award of contracts of mega projects to different subsidiaries of a company. Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan were other members of the bench.

Earlier, representatives of the contractor companies told the court that 98 percent of work had been completed on package-I of the project, 65 percent on package-II and 90 percent on package III and VI. Representative of Habib Constructions stated that more than 90 percent of work assigned to them had been completed while the rest including laying down the track would be done by the Chinese company. Chief Justice Nisar was surprised when the company’s representative pointed out that two of the last cheques issued by the government had bounced.

The chief engineer of the project told the court that the cheques were withheld for adjustment of advance payment made to contractors.

The chief justice directed a provincial law officer to take up the matter with representatives of the new government and sensitize them about urgency of the situation. He said the court would not let any contractor abandon construction work in any case. During the hearing, Justice Bandial observed that cost of the project would increase if it is delayed further.

Chief Justice Nisar said huge public money was involved in the project and it could not be left unattended. He directed the government to resolve monetary issues of contractors and also work on a war footing for approval of revised PC-I of the project.

The chief justice told the contractors to submit affidavits on deadline for completion of the project.

The bench adjourned the hearing till August 30 and summoned responsible officers of finance department, Nespak and all other departments.

Also, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar sought reports from provincial governments on non-payment of taxes by companies manufacturing mineral/treated water using groundwater.

Hearing multiple public interest matters at SC Lahore registry, the court observed that mineral/bottled water manufacturing companies had been taking out thousands of gallons groundwater through tube wells every day, but they were paying nothing to the government despite the fact they were earning billions of rupees.

The chief justice remarked the court wanted to know as to how many taxes these companies had been paying when they were pumping out groundwater worth billions of rupees without paying a penny to the national exchequer.

The chief justice directed chief secretaries of all the provinces to submit reports within ten days about the tax being paid by the mineral/bottled water manufacturing companies.

He also directed the Punjab Food Authority to file a separate report about quality of the bottled water being sold by the companies.

Also, the top court took up the plea of an elderly woman for possession of 1,126 kanals of inheritance land.

The litigant woman got 1,126 kanals land of her share that she had been deprived of since 1952. An SC bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the authorities to hand over the land to Vehari woman after retrieving it from her brothers.

The CJP reprimanded the woman’s brothers, saying: “You made your sister cry throughout her life. Would you carry the land to grave? Under which law you denied your sister what she was entitled to under the Shariah law?” All the seven men failed to reply to the top judge.

The court directed the authorities concerned to hand over possession of the land to the woman within a week and submit compliance report.

In a case involving construction of a church in Kamoke, the top judge ordered construction of the church in October. The CJP gave these orders while presiding over a bench of the Supreme Court (SC) during the hearing of a suo motu notice on non-construction of church in Kamoke despite availability of funds.

Minority MPA Tariq Masih Gill appeared in the court under court’s orders. He told the court that he got funds sanctioned for construction of church as provincial minister.

The construction work could not be started due to general elections and it will start after release of funds. The court directed the additional advocate general of Punjab to get funds for the church released and construction work should be started in October. The CJP had taken suo motu notice on the application of a citizen that Tariq Gill is not starting construction work on the church despite availability of funds.

 

FIDA HUSSNAIN