The Sindh High court has given temporary relief to Gul Ahmed Textile Mills in allowing it to lift its cotton from its mill built on land which the Railways ministry alleges belongs to it. Observing the fact that Gul Ahmed Textiles has presented the previous decisions by Supreme Court and Sindh High Court which indicate that this was a settled matter and keeping in mind that GAMT is Pakistan’s major textile exporter, it has been granted relief by Sindh High Court.
Suit No 23 of 2021 was filed by Gul Ahmed Textile Mills (GATM) Limited’s administration on 8th of January, 2021 against Pakistan Railways and the Federation of Pakistan for barging in and illegally occupying the cotton storage area of the mill on January 3rd at around 1:30 am at night.
GATM alleged that the action was unjust, as armed personnel of the Railway Police broke in and sealed their legally acquired warehouse without any court order. Railway Police has also been accused of baton charging the factory workers which has led to them sustaining serious injuries.
The move was also strongly condemned by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) as shaking domestic business and international confidence in the country, putting thousands of jobs at stake in one of Pakistan’s largest textile exporting companies.
The decision by the Sindh High Court (SHC) allows the company to utilize cotton in the meantime in the manufacturing process of spinning and continue to operate. Recently, cotton prices in the local market hit a 10-year high of Rs11,000 per maund (40kg) and would have created huge losses for the company (and country) if it had to go to the local market to buy cotton to fill its existing orders. Furthermore, sources in Gul Ahmed stated that there is a lack of availability of cotton in the market due to the severe cotton shortage in Pakistan, and this is why they keep an inventory of cotton stored to ensure the sustainability of the business.
Pakistan Railways responds to allegations
Pakistan Railways maintains the position that it is merely taking possession of the land which was illegally taken. The Pakistan Railway’s spokesperson stated that they had recovered 42 acres of the Railways ministry’s land in Jumma Goth on 3rd of January (including that on which Gul Ahmed Textile Mill stands on). The Railways ministry claimed that armed workers of a renowned textile mill attempted to reoccupy the land with the help of police on Friday but were unsuccessful in doing so. It is not clear why the ministry did not differentiate between the different stakeholders – land mafia versus a publicly listed company – the latter who has several judgements in its favour on the matter.
Gul Ahmed Textile Mills stands firm
Gul Ahmed Textile Mills (GATM) Limited, incorporated on April 1, 1953, in Pakistan as a private limited company and subsequently converted into a public limited company on January 7, 1955, is listed on the Pakistan Stock Exchange Limited. The press release issued by GATM reads that it had purchased the land, bearing Survey Number (48, 49, 50 and 51) in Deh Khanto, measuring 43 acres in 2003.
The previous owners’ request for demarcation of the aforesaid land was carried out by the Revenue authorities in the presence of all parties concerned including a representative of the Pakistan Railways, added the press release.
After a series of litigation, the matter attained finality vide Judgment Dated 27-5-2002, passed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, a formal sale agreement dated 31-1-2003 was executed between the lawful owners and Gul Ahmed Textile Mills, it added. Subsequently, the entire land comprising Survey No 48, 49, 50 and 51 Deh Khanto Bin Qasim Town was purchased by Gul Ahmed.
All relevant documents including conveyance deeds, Fresh Form VII were in the favour of Gul Ahmed Textile Mills (GATM) and the factory was in lawful possession of the land compounded with boundary wall and being used for storage of cotton, from where the commodity was supplied to all units of the GATM, explained the release.
According to GATM’s press release, it was a settled matter as they were in possession of all legal documents including a judgment given in suit No. 248 of 1994, passed by 1SCJ Karachi (East) on 9-8-1994; another judgment of CA No 7 of 1996, passed by 5th ADJ Karachi (East) dated 24-2-1998; another judgment in Civil Revision 232 of 1998, passed by the Sindh High Court on 25-5-2001; yet another judgment of CPLA 2196 of 2001, passed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 27-5-2002; demarcation letter issued on 12-12-2002 and two registered conveyance deeds between previous owners and the GATM.
The release further stated that SC Judgment attained the finality between the previous owners and the Pakistan Railways and it has never been rebutted in the past 18 years. GATM believes that the immoral police behavior should be taken into account as it harassed its workers to a point where they had to vacate the land. Gul Ahmed exports quality textile products to many of the Fortune 500 retail giants across the globe and it’s a shame that it’s being subjected to such humiliation stated the GATM administration.
Sindh High Court grants relief to GATM
However, the relief may be temporary as the court will now examine the nature and quality of the arguments and evidence put forward by both GATM and Pakistan Railways in detail and then give its final verdict. Therefore, we are yet to see whether Pakistan Railways has the right to claim this land or the court considers this a settled matter and gives back the possession to Gul Ahmed Textile Mills Limited.