ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court yesterday said it would take suo motu notice of the legal status and validity of the Defence Housing Authority.

Shahid Hamid advocate told the court that construction of roads and housing societies came under the ambit of the local governments while the DHA which was not even a cantonment board has been given the powers, through an act, not only to develop housing societies but also to notify the areas for the purpose. He said even the establishment of cantonments in the country had to be decided by the federal government.

Chief Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, expressing concern over the issue, said: “Where are we heading towards? We shall take suo motu notice on this matter. It is the biggest constitutional issue,” he remarked and asked Shahid Hamid to assist the court in this matter.

The senior counsel informed the three-judge bench that the DHA which was initially known as Lahore Cantonment Housing Society was registered under the Lahore Cantonment Corporate Society Act 2005, but it became a statutory body under an ordinance passed in 1999. He added in 2002, the management of DHA felt that the corps commander and the severing brigadier should be included in its body and it was done through a federal law.

Justice Jawwad questioned how this had happened. He said it was understandable that a provincial government could make a law to provide housing facilities to the poor people, but it was not understandable how the federal government could make legislation in this regard.

The chief justice asked Deputy Attorney General Sohail Zafar how a serving brigadier could carry out commercial activities. The judge directed the DAG to get information from the defence secretary. He remarked army officers could be absorbed in the civil service, but they could not work in a commercial organisation. “It seems the DHA is a commercial venture,” he added.

Justice Dost said the DHA scheme seemed like trading, which was a violation of law, so the army officers should not get involved in such matters. He divulged in the British era, newspapers were not allowed in the cantonment areas. The court observed: “The DHA is occupying land in a way as it is owned by an enemy.”

Shahid Hamid said the DHA claimed it was providing the best lifestyle to the people. Justice Jawwad questioned: “The best lifestyle at whose cost?” The court observed that, according to the DHA’s own act, the purpose of the DHA was to provide housing facilities to the families of the martyrs and those injured or disabled in wars but in reality the situation was completely different.

Shahid Hamid revealed in DHA 90 percent plots were allotted to army officers and 10 percent to civilians.

Shahid Hamid who represented the Eden Builders Company Orange told the court that his client entered into a joint venture agreement with DHA for acquiring and developing land. He said they had done their job accordingly, but the DHA, instead of making payment, filed a complaint against them in NAB.

He said, on July 28, 2015, the NAB filed a list of 27 mega scams in addition to the 150 mega corruption scandals, and included his client (Orange Company) in it. He said litigation between DHA and Orange Co. was pending in various civil courts and one of them had delivered its judgment in his client’s favour.

On a query from the court, NAB Additional Prosecutor General Akbar Tarar said it was conducting an investigation against Orange on a complaint from Brig Zafar Yaseen.

Justice Jawwad observed the NAB had become mouthpiece of the DHA. He added the court had passed a judgment that the NAB could not interfere in the matters pending in civil courts.

The case was adjourned until September 2.