The Sindh High Court on Monday directed the ministry of defence to produce any registered instrument as an evidence of having purchased the Jinnah House in Lahore from Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah in 1959.
The direction came on a reference on Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s estate case following a High Court order. The reference had drawn the court’s attention towards the news items published in a section of the press in February 2007 about Quaid-e-Azam’s property number 53 on street 157, Diagonal Road, Lahore Cantonment, and stated that if the same was true then the same shall also be governed by the will and testament of the Quaid-e-Azam.
The reference submitted that the residuary legatees were entitled to a one-third share each in the residuary estate left behind by the Quaid-e-Azam. The court was prayed to issue notices to the ministry of defence and the advocate-general of Punjab as in these circumstances it would be appropriate for further orders to determine whether this property was covered by the will and testament of the Quaid-e-Azam and shared by the three residuary legatees, the Sindh Madressah in Karachi, the Islamia College in Peshawar and the Quaid-e-Azam Aligarh Education (Scholarship) Trust in terms of a judgment of the Sindh High Court on October 24, 1984.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Inter-Services Public Relations, however, responding to the news item through a press release, said that the house had been purchased by the Quaid-e-Azam on October 16, 1943 from Lala Mohan Lal at a cost of Rs162,500 while on January 22, 1944 it was requisitioned by the then deputy commissioner of Lahore for the use of the British Indian Army (being in the pre-partition period).
The house continued to be in the army’s use after the partition as well. The ISPR’s press statement said that on March 29, 1959, the house was purchased by the ministry of defence at a cost of Rs350,000 from Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, and that it remained the official residence of the General Officer Commanding Lahore unit till 1966 when it was converted into the Corps Commander’s House.
The SHC’s single bench, headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam, observed that no comments were placed on record so far though the ISPR, in a press release, had admitted that the property was originally owned by the Quaid-e-Azam and was later acquired by the ministry of defence from Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah.
The court directed that notices be issued to the advocate-general of Punjab and the secretary of ministry of defence with a direction to produce any conveyance or registered instrument evidencing the purchase of the Jinnah House in Lahore by the ministry of defence from Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah as per the media reports published in February 2007.
The court also appointed Justice (Retd) G.H. Malik as the trustee and Anwar Mansoor Khan as an additional trustee in the intestate matter of the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Q. A. Aligarh Scholarship (Education) Trust. The reference was filed for appointment of additional trustee and so also a trustee in place of the deceased trustee, Justice (Retd) Z. H. Channa.