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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has dismissed a petition of the Lahore Gymkhana Club (LGC) against a decision of the Punjab Information Commission (PIC), which directed the club to furnish details of the land leased out to the club by the provincial government and record of the donors.

A Bar member Abdullah Malik and others had sought the details and after denial by the club, the applicants approached the PIC, which after hearing the parties also ordered the club to furnish the requisite details.

The court observed that the impugned order passed by the PIC did not suffer from illegality.

Earlier the club’s counsel argued that according to section 6 of the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2013 (PTRI Act), the PIC can only pass a direction for the disclosure of information against a “public body” as defined under section 2(h) of PTRI Act whereas, the petitioner club being a public limited company did not fall within the scope of a “public body”.

A law officer on behalf of the PIC argued that the government was “substantially financing” the petitioner/club, therefore, the same falls within the scope of section 2(h)(iv) of PTRI Act.

The applicants’ counsel also opposed the petition saying Article 19-A of the Constitution envisaged every citizen of the country to become independent of power center and to have access to information in all matters of public importance.

The court while dismissing the petition noted that the lease deed signed on June 12, 1996 reflects that land measuring 1030 kanal, 1 marla, 80-foot situated in Mauza Mian Mir at Upper Shahrah-i-Quaid-i-Azam (Upper Mall), Lahore had been granted to the petitioner/club on the lease for 50 years from 2000 to 2050 merely against a token rent of Rs 5,000 per annum.

The court observed that the land exists in one of the most premium and expensive areas of Lahore.

The court noted that the PIC roughly assessed the value of the lease land as more than rupees 15 billion, which was not denied by the petitioner/club before the court.

The sports grounds including golf course and other facilities being provided by the petitioner to its members exist on the land that is granted by Government of the Punjab to the petitioner almost free of cost.

The court observed that the leased land forms part of the resources of the State and the grant of leasehold rights of the land worth billions of rupees for almost free of cost by the government is an enormous benefit to the club.

The court said the accommodation by the government of providing a large piece of land situated at Upper Mall, Lahore to the petitioner at a rate of Rs 5,000 per annum cannot be even termed as any rate whatsoever.

“The land in question that otherwise has rental value having no comparison with what is being fetched from the petitioner, clearly amounts to financial assistance by the government,” the court added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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