Surreptitiously leased, built and operated, Lahore’s prestigious Royal Palm Golf & Country Club handed red card by the Supreme Court
PKONWEB — The country’s highest court on Friday declared null and void the lease of over hundred acres prized railway-owned land (public property) used for developing the Royal Palm Golf and Country Club (RPGCC) in Lahore.
The court declared the 2001 lease agreement void ab initio (unlawful from very beginning) since July 2001, and handed it over to Pakistan Railways to manage the huge getaway for the elite in Punjab’s capital.
The verdict gives its possession lock stock and barrel to the Pakistan Railways on whose lands the pristine hangout was built two decades back surreptitiously, drawing several lawsuits filed against it in public interest.
The apex court directed the highly profitable and renowned members-only club be run through a team of PR officers or independent professionals.
The three-judge bench also directed the chartered accountancy firm– already looking after the affairs of the club– act as trustee and transfer the club’s management to the Railways in seven days.
The judgement directed the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) to conduct forensic audit of the club to determine the scope and extent of the work performed and not performed under the lease agreement.
The Supreme Court took the decision after several concerned citizens’ complaints held that the lease was awarded in a controversial manner. The Railways, one of the complainants, held that public lands were grabbed and the Club built/operated with utter disregard to the rules of business and absent proper legal framework acceptable to the State entity.
The petitioners contended that the land belonging to the railways was leased out in a highly non-transparent manner without following settled procedures for such purpose.
The judges ruled that the entire process used from day one smacks of bad faith.
“We are in no manner of doubt that the entire process was tainted with mala fide and nepotism…in order to award the project to a predetermined party to the exclusion of others, and was therefore devoid of transparency, fairness and openness”…”and no feasible resolution of the disputes between the parties is possible in the foreseeable future”.
It also ruled that a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference against the lease will continue to be heard by an accountability court of Islamabad as per law.
The anti-graft watchdog has contended that the “precious piece of Pakistan Railway land” was leased out illegally in order to grant illegal benefits to the leaseholder.
According to NAB, the accused caused a loss of approximately Rs2.2 billion to the national exchequer.
The long-due decision was welcomed by Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid and senior officials of the State entity.
“The decision has helped us in getting rid of the land grabbers occupying the precious PR land worth billions,” he added.
He asked the Club management to pay up all past dues on the lease.
“After taking over the club, we will float international tenders for short-listing an eligible firm to run the affairs of the club… It will help us in reducing financial deficit the PR has been facing since long,” the minister said in a press release.
Rashid said that within 90 days Railways may be able to complete the open international bidding.