Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday issued notices to the federal government and Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq on a petition filed by the management of Royal Palm Golf and Country Club against its takeover by the Railways Department.

Supreme Court Bar Association president Barrister Syed Ali Zafar represented the club before Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza.

Barrister Zafar said that the takeover was an instance of lawlessness. “At 4:30am on June 24, the Railway Police, along with 400 hooligans, unlawfully occupied the club after detaining the guards posted outside,” he said.

He said that the action was without the sanction or backing of any law and without following due process or obtaining a court order.

“No one was allowed inside the club while railway officials were looting and destroying valuables and equipment. Local police were unable to help because the operation was being carried out by the government through Railways Ministry,” he said.

Zafar said that the petitioner had been running the club since 2001 under a valid lease and operation agreement known as the Implementation Agreement of July 26, 2001. “It had been executed between Royal Palm and Pakistan Railways. The unilateral action by railways is in violation of the terms and conditions of the agreement and the law,” he said.

Zafar said that if the government had wanted to evict the petitioner from the club, it could only do so through due process in a court of law, a requirement under Article 4 and 10A of the Constitution.

“In this case, the government has taken the law in its own hands. With malafide intentions, it bypassed procedures of law and illegally took possession of a successful enterprise in which Royal Palm had invested huge amounts of money. More than 3,000 members and employees of the club are not being allowed inside at the behest of the government,” he said.

After hearing the preliminary arguments, the judge issued notices to the government and railways officials, including Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq and the CCPO, with directions to file replies by July 4. On the application for restoration of possession, the judge indicated that the question would be decided after hearing the respondents.

Separately, contempt notices have been issued to railway officials for violating the orders of a civil judge.