By Khalid Hussain —
It has taken the Supreme Court nearly 13 years to start hearing a property dispute involving a rich and connected party and an ordinary citizen from Karachi but there is no clarity whether the next hearing would take place in 10 days as ordered or another decade might pass before it comes up for hearing once again.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Umar Ata Bundial heard the case today with justices Faisal Arab and Yahya Afridi. Interestingly, Justice Afridi has recused himself and this was his last hearing of the case on this Bench. The reconstitution of the bench is known to cause delays and this case has been delayed by defence counsel former judge of the High Court, former Attorney General and a former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association Malik Abdul Qayyum. Interestingly, he has been twice fined rupees 50,000 (fifty thousand) for not appearing in the court.
The case pertains to a suit of specific performance whereby one Syed Farooq Hussain was decreed specific performance as per agreement for the purchase of a flat in Kashmir, PECHS Karachi in 2001. The decree was challenged by seller Zakia begum related to known Karachi industrialist Salma Ahmad and former Federal Secretary Foreign Affairs and former Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board Shahryar Mohammad Khan.
The seller lost appeals first to a single bench and then to a double bench of the Sindh High Court in 2006 and moved to civil appeals in the Supreme Court. The case has been pending since and it was only the last week that it finally came up for hearing following the take over of the present chief Justice Gulzar Ahmad who desires to finish the backlog. It is interesting to note that the petitioners never attended proceedings obviously desiring to delay and even willingly accepted fines by the court instead of appearing to argue their appeals.
Meanwhile, the buyer has been living in middle east for the last 55 years. He has traveled to Islamabad for hearings time and again. He has had an open heart surgery due the stress the excessive delay in proceedings caused. His version is simple that the seller do not want to sell because property prices have escalated. He has paid nearly 70% advance to the seller by 2001 and has deposited the balance amount with the court following a decision to the effect by the Sindh High Court in 2006. “I can no longer afford to pay a lawyer”, says Syed Farooq. His better half Gohar Sultana silently drops tears of despair saying, “We still have no house of our own.”
The court asked Malik Qayyum to proceed with his arguments but informed him that the bench will be dissolved and the case will be heard by a new bench upon the next hearing. Malik argued the buyer did not pay the seller as per the agreed upon schedule of payment and that is why the seller cancelled the agreement. However, Justice Bundial observed that the schedule of payment was not signed by the buyer but Malik insisted that it was mentioned in the agreement.
Justice Faisal Arab observed that the buyer did not deposit the balance account in the court till 2006 to which the counsel for respondent Syed Farooq argued the court may impose mark up for the duration of the delay although the money was deposited as per the instructions of the high court.
Court adjourned hearing for 10 days.
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