The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday declared that allotment of 8068 acres of land to Pakistan Army in the National Park area of Islamabad is against the law.
"The claim of Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate of Pakistan Army, regarding 8,068 acres of land in the notified National Park area is in violation of the Ordinance of 1979 read with the Ordinance of 1960 and the Master Plan,” an 11-page judgment authored by IHC CJ Athar Minallah said.
“The claim is also not in conformity with the enforced laws applicable to the management of lands for the use of the armed forces. The federal government was bereft of jurisdiction to allow the directorate to use 8,068 acres of land in the notified National Park area,” the judgment stated. “The directorate has no jurisdiction nor the authority to own, use or keep in possession any land within the notified National Park area."
The order says that the Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate had no jurisdiction or authority to execute the purported agreement, dated Sept 30, 2019 with Monal Restaurant. "The rent recovered by the directorate from Monal Restaurant was also without lawful authority and jurisdiction. “The Ministry of Defence secretary shall ensure that the rent received by the directorate is recovered and deposited in the exchequer within 60 days from the date of the order."
The court said that the lease agreement of Monal Restaurant with the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had expired and its agreement, dated Sept 30, 2019 with the Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate was void and without any legal effect. The court said that the CDA and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board shall forthwith take over possession of Monal Restaurant and thereafter seal its premises subject to allowing its owner/management to take out its property.
The order said that the CDA chairman shall undertake an inquiry to identify the officials responsible for the construction of Monal Restaurant and other buildings in the protected area of the National Park in violation of the Act of 1997, Ordinance of 1960, Ordinance of 1966, Ordinance of 1979 and the regulations made under the respective statutes.
“The board of the authority shall thereafter proceed against the officials in accordance with the law. ”The Ministry of Climate Change secretary and the Environmental Protection Agency director general shall jointly conduct a survey of Monal Restaurant and other buildings constructed in the area to assess the damage caused to the environment and thereafter take such measures and actions as may be necessary to avoid further environmental degradation."
The court also said that Pakistan Navy has encroached upon state land including the notified area of the National Park by unauthorisedly and illegally establishing a golf course outside the allocated Sector E-8.
"The construction on the encroached land and establishing a golf course was and continues to be illegal, without lawful authority and jurisdiction.
"The purported Navy Golf Course shall forthwith be sealed and its possession handed over to the Capital Development Authority and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board. "The construction on the encroached land of Navy Golf Course shall be demolished within four weeks from the date of the order unless it can be utilised for an environmentally friendly activity." It said that the CDA and Islamabad Wildlife Management Board will jointly restore the encroached land of Navy Golf Course as part of the National Park.
"The Ministry of Defence secretary shall conduct an inquiry and fix responsibility of officials/persons involved in trespassing and encroaching upon the state land for unauthorisedly and illegally establishing the Navy Golf Course." "The Ministry of Defence secretary shall conduct a forensic audit through the Auditor General of Pakistan to ascertain the loss caused to the exchequer and the same shall be recovered from the officials/persons found responsible,” the order said.
It said that the report and recommendations of the commission, which forms an integral part of this judgment, shall be forthwith examined by the Ministry of Climate Change secretary.
The court also said that the commission, headed by Dr Pervez Hassan, was converted into Implementation Commission.
The Ministry of Climate Change secretary shall coordinate with the chair of the Implementation Commission. The recommendations, after deliberations, shall be placed before the federal government ie the prime minister and members of the cabinet for approval. "The prestige and special status of the armed forces is of paramount importance for the people of Pakistan. The Ministry of Defence secretary and Capital Development Authority chairman shall ensure that no controversy is created in future regarding non-implementation of the enforced laws within the three sectors allocated for the use of the
branches of the armed forces in the Islamabad Capital Territory,” the order said.
The order further said that the officials shall submit their respective compliance reports to the registrar of the court within 30 days from the date of order. The order said that biodiversity, ecosystems and natural habitats are possessed of life and thus living organisms.
"Life, whether that of a human or other living beings, depends on existence of biodiversity, ecosystems and natural habitats. Protection of ecosystems and natural habitats is inextricably linked to right to life guaranteed under Article 9 of the Constitution. "Protection of ecosystems and natural habitats is a constitutional obligation of the state, its institutions and every public functionary.”
The court held that the destruction of the National Park is violative of the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan and saving it from further harm an inviolable duty of the state, its institutions and the public functionaries. "The federal government, Capital Development Authority and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board shall be severally and jointly liable for any further destruction of the National Park.”
All three “shall jointly ensure that no further unauthorised activity, construction or acts in any other manner take place or are undertaken within the notified area of the National Park”.
"The respective secretaries of the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior and Capital Development Authority chairman shall jointly conduct a survey and demarcate the unharmed area of the notified National Park. The survey and demarcation shall be completed within 60 days from the date of this order. They will ensure that no activity or construction is allowed within the notified National Park as mandated under MLR 82, the Capital Development Authority Ordinance, 1960 and regulations made thereunder, the Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Ordinance, 1979, and the Islamabad (Preservation of Landscape) Ordinance, 1966.
"The Ministry of Defence secretary shall ensure that the enforced laws are strictly implemented in the three sectors allocated for the use of the branches of armed forces. The CDA chairman shall forthwith advise the Ministry of Defence secretary regarding the enforced and applicable laws," the order said.
The reasons of the judgment will be issued later.
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