Setback for PM Imran, others as appeal dismissed

Published: September 4, 2018
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PHOTO: EXPRESS

PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: While Prime Minister Imran Khan may have achieved his goal of reaching the highest office of government, his desire to live in a luxury apartment facing the Constitution Avenue will remain a dream for a while longer.

The incumbent premier, along with a host of other flat-owners in the multi-storey hotel and residential complex on one Constitution Avenue suffered a legal setback on Monday as the Islamabad High Court (IHC) dismissed appeals against a judgment which had declared the land lease for the under-construction building as illegal.

Imran and 27 other flat purchasers had approached the court, filing an intra-court appeal against a decision of the IHC’s single bench. The bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah, had on March 3, 2017, upheld the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) decision of terminating the lease contract and sealing the building.

Among the 240 flat-owners, names of many ring bells either on their own or due to their famous relatives. These include Imran, Nasirul Mulk, Salman Bashir, Ehsan Mani, Ahmed Mukhtar,  Feryal Gauhar, Jahangir Khan, Haris Khan Toru, Rashid Khan, Shazia Hafeez Shaikh, Hashim Khan, Dr Asad Zia, Shiekh Amir Waheed, Shahzad Waseem, Muhammad Asif Sandila, Mehboobul Haque, Naseem Zehra Ikhlaq, Khawaja Muhammad Asad and Kashmala Tariq are among list of the 240 flats owners.

IHC’s division bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, though dismissed the appeals and upheld single bench’s judgment.

On July 1, 2016, the CDA had sealed the under-construction, multi-storey hotel for committing various building and layout plan violations.

Officials of the civic agency maintained that the builders of the building had created third-party interest without adhering to CDA’s by-laws.

On July 29, 2016, CDA moved to cancel the 99-year lease for the 13.45-acre plot, located adjacent to the Jinnah Convention Centre. The land had been leased by the BNP group through an auction on March 9, 2005.

A CDA told the court the first bidding process for construction of the five-star hotel was cancelled on August 2, 2004, while the CDA started the auction process afresh on September 28, 2004.

Interestingly, it said that certain changes were made in the terms and conditions of the auction, including extension of the original lease period from 33 years to 99 years, reducing payment of initial bid money from 25 per cent to 15 per cent within 45 days and balance payment within 15 years instead of the stipulated 120 days.

On March 9, 2005, CDA auctioned the 13.5-acre plot to the BNP Group for Rs4.88 billion. CDA’s Board handed over possession of the plot the same year after receiving just Rs800 million.

So far, BNP has paid CDA Rs1.02 billion while the remaining Rs3.85 billion is recoverable in instalments until 2026.

The Public Accounts Committee had earlier noted that the BNP Group had earned over Rs3 billion in profits from selling residential units in the building all the while the CDA has yet to receive even half of the total receivable sum.

Although Justice Minallah had dismissed all the petitions challenging cancellation of the land lease, he held that it was a classic case where the CDA and BNP had blatantly violated rules and regulations of CDA’s Ordinance of 1960.

The judge had noted that there is nothing on record to even remotely indicate as to how someone, who had not participated in the bidding process, was permitted to execute the lease deed and, thereafter, construct a building on the plot.

“It appears from the correspondence between the parties, he stated, “that at a belated stage the Authority [CDA] had realised this material irregularity.”

All the correspondence between the parties refers to the construction of a ‘five star hotel’, the verdict had revealed, adding that BNP has not been able to show a single document even remotely indicating that the plot was created, offered for sale or advertised as for the construction of any building other than a ‘five star hotel’, let alone for a multi-unit building for residential apartments.

The 240 purchasers, in this case, have been ‘robbed’ of their hard-earned savings solely due to regulatory failure and negligence of CDA and the federal government as well. It is, therefore, he said, their duty to ensure that the rights of the purchasers to the extent of being compensated is protected and enforced.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2018.

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