CDA challenges restoration of One Constitution Avenue’s lease in SC

Contends that no amount of fine can account for contravening the law


MIAN AQEEL AFZAL March 16, 2019
Contends that no amount of fine can account for contravening the law. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The apex civic agency in the federal capital has filed a review petition against the top court’s decision to restore the lease of the multi-storey structure on One Constitution Avenue after imposing a fine worth Rs17.5 billion.

In its review petition filed on Friday, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) claimed that regardless of the value of the fine, it cannot justify the regularising a building in contravention of principles of justice.

The civic agency argued that flats cannot be built on land earmarked for the construction of a five-star hotel.

“In the absence of a legal document the impugned order could not be allowed for regularizing illegally constructed ‘residential apartments’ over a plot earmarked for the construction of a ‘five-star hotel’, by charging a certain sum of money, no matter how big.”

The CDA further argued that “the ‘doctrine of regularisation’, is alien to the rule of law and that justice must be realized regardless of consequences ‘Let justice be done though the heavens fall’,” the petition added.

It further pointed out that the leaseholder did not fulfil some of the basic criterions of qualifying for the bidding process — including the experience of building and running a five-star hotel, let alone mounting a successful bid.

CDA further claimed that the leaseholder had cheated the government.

“The impugned order by referring to a certain sum of money payable to the CDA over a period of eight years, has grossly ignored and impliedly condones the illegalities, brazen violations, post-bid changes and wrongdoings made in the disposal and construction over state-owned land,” the CDA contended, adding that allowing the plot would disturb the entire Master Plan and Zoning Regulations 1992.

Pointing out that the court had referred the matter to the CDA’s board and the federal cabinet, the CDA further argued that it was the mandate of the federal government – through the federal cabinet – to review or otherwise allow amendments in the master plan of the city.

Furthermore, the CDA complained that the top court had ignored the report of the Auditory General while giving its judgment.

On January 10, 2019, a three-member bench of the apex court led by the former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar had restored the cancelled lease of the One Constitution Avenue tower for a massive fine of Rs17.5 billion.

The court set aside verdicts of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) which had upheld a decision by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to cancel the lease of the land.

CDA’s counsel Muneer Paracha urged the court that the federal cabinet will review the matter fully.

CJP Nisar, though, noted that two towers of the structure have now been built and people have bought apartments in it. He asked why did CDA not raise any objections for the 13 years when the tower was being built. And then, the lease was cancelled on the directions of a minister.

The CDA’s counsel, though, had admitted during the hearing that it would be extremely difficult to demolish the towers now, before suggesting to auction the land on which the towers were built.

Last week, the IHC in cases pertaining to the regularisation of illegal constructions said that the One Constitution Avenue and the Bani Gala cases have put the courts in difficulty because after regularising one illegal building all such buildings would have to be regularised.

The court raised the question of why not all the illegal constructions of Islamabad be regularised after Bani Gala and the One Constitution Avenue cases. It said that the top court was not informed about the facts in those cases.

The order said that regularisation means legal requirements were not fulfilled in the first place. However, the order warned that regularising illegal constructions in Islamabad would have a great impact on the future of the capital. Even the climate and environment would be affected, it added.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2019.

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