IHC provides relief to land affectees

Directs govt to formulate policy within six months to give owners due rights


Saqib Bashir June 22, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed the federal government to formulate a policy for the affected local landowners of Islamabad — whose lands had been acquired to build urban sectors without being compensated or provided alternate land by the civic agency — and get them their due rights within six months.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah announced on Monday a 64-page verdict, reserved earlier, on 35 separate petitions involving thousands of affectees, seeking compensation against the land that had been acquired by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in the past to build sectors including a sector for the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority (FGEHA).

In the verdict, the court hoped that the federal government would implement the decision within the given timeframe. The court stated that the federal government should ensure that the affectees of all sectors get their rights which the CDA had already accepted. It added that the conditions approved in the sixth meeting of CDA’s executive board should be implemented.

The court further directed the IHC registrar to send a copy of the decision to the interior secretary who would put it before the federal cabinet within the next two weeks.

The bench ruled that the federal government should also stop misuse of power in the authority in the future, adding that the FGEHA’s refusal to enter into a settlement with the affectees and denial of the set conditions was illegal.

Justice Minallah said that the federal government should ensure that the CDA formulates a mechanism for dispensation of rights to the affected people. The court stated that a separate forum should be formed to review objections transparently.

It ruled that the CDA should not deal with the power of attorney and instead deal directly with the party and instructed the civic authority to approach every affected person and deal with the case in light of the government’s policy.

In the verdict, the federal government has been asked to formulate a policy for land acquisition and calculation of the market value of the land. It said that a policy should also be made for the construction of Sector E-12 as the victims got plots in 1989 at a time when it was not developed.

The court also questioned the role of the CDA and said that the civic authority abused powers for decades by denying the victims their rights even to those whose ownerships on the plots was proved by the civic body.

The verdict said that the constitutional rights of the affectees had been violated and they have been subjected to a very corrupt system.

“Those who were supposed to protect the rights of the people turned out to be a source of agony for them,” the court said in the verdict.

The court said that the award was announced in 2008 and 2009 despite the non-availability of funds and “what could be more humiliation of justice than this”. “There are 11,000 affected citizens were waiting for the allotments of plots since 1968 till date and more than 20,000 plots were allotted at throwaway prices to employees and officials of the CDA including the chairman and board members,” the order said.

It further said that the CDA chairman, board members, officials and workers were given plots at cheap rates, adding that the civic authority constructed plots in different sectors for its officials but did not make them available for those whose lands were utilised.

The court ruled that the CDA made vague policies to create opportunities for its own benefit in a non-transparent manner. “The authority inflicted damage upon the citizens who had constitutional rights but they were very poor and belonged to the weaker sections of the society,” the court remarked.

The IHC said that the affectees should be given their constitutional rights before they lose trust in the rule of law.

The court noted that it came to its notice that it had constituted a committee comprising public representatives, who were serious in doing their jobs, however, they looked helpless due to the CDA mismanagement and failed governance.

“This is not a tragedy of today but a reflection of the decades-long performance of governments in this regard. Or else, the affectees would have been dispensed their constitutional rights,” the court maintained.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2021.

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