The Supreme Court on Thursday berated the federal government for its failure to conduct an audit of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Lahore, with Justice Gulzar Ahmed remarking that the “DHA seems like a government operating within the government”.
In Sep 2015, the apex court had declared DHA’s claim that their accounts could not be scrutinised as “unjustified”, and ordered the auditor general of Pakistan (AGP) to audit DHA’s accounts. The order was issued during the hearing of a case involving the possession of 156 kanals of land, which DHA Lahore had dubbed ‘Phase 7’ despite the fact that the individual from whom it purportedly ‘purchased’ the land for Rs920 million never owned the property.
A three-member bench, under Justice Gulzar’s stewardship, heard the same case today. It admonished the government as well as the housing authority for not carrying out the court’s orders.
“The court had ordered an audit of DHA,” Justice Qazi Faez Essa recalled. “By not conducting the audit, DHA can be held in contempt of court.”
“What problem does DHA have with the audit?” the judge asked.
“It seems as if DHA is a government within the government,” Justice Gulzar added.
During the hearing, Justice Essa rhetorically asked if “the court needs to teach the law to the government”, also adding that “if the government cannot understand the law, it should state so in writing.”
Justice Gulzar also expressed his displeasure as he questioned: “Why does the judiciary have to do everything and pass all the orders?”
“Is the judiciary an alternative to the government? Has the government been handed over to the Supreme Court?” he asked in exasperation.
The DHA counsel asked the court for some time to prepare his client’s case. Subsequently, the case was adjourned for two weeks.
It is pertinent to mention that DHA Lahore was among 19 organisations refusing an audit into their financial affairs by the attorney general of Pakistan.
The Sep 2015 audit order was issued days after the Supreme Court had taken exception to the DHA’s claims of immunity from an audit of their accounts by the auditor general under Article 170 of the Constitution.
The housing authority’s status was also questioned by the apex court in July 2015 during the hearing of a complaint filed against the development of DHA Valley on an area reserved for a lake adjoining the proposed Dadhocha dam.
At the time, the court had asked if DHA was working without any oversight or if it was answerable to the federal government.
Meanwhile, the SC bench that had declared Bahria Town’s illegal procurement of land null and void, in the same verdict had mentioned that DHA and others too may have been allotted land on cheaper rates, and recommended to the then chief justice to take suo motu action.