SC rules on National Park land dispute

Upholds IHC verdict declaring allotting land to army ‘illegal’

Hasnaat Malik June 14, 2024
Supreme Court" PHOTO


The Supreme Court has upheld a verdict declaring that the allotment of 8,068 acres to the army in the National Park area of Islamabad was against the law.

The judgment was passed by the Islamabad High Court over two years ago. “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,” read an 11-page judgment authored by then IHC chief justice Athar Minallah in January 2022.

“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,” it added. “The directorate has no jurisdiction nor the authority to own, use or keep in possession [of] any land within the notified National Park area.”

The federal government through the defence ministry and Monal Restaurant challenged the IHC judgment in the apex court.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, maintaining the IHC order has held that any lease, license, allotment or permission granted by the Capital Development Authority (CDA); Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate; or any other department to operate restaurants in the National Park was contrary to the provisions of the Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Ordinance, 1979.

“The petitioner in CPLAs No 304 and 305 of 2022 is stated to have deposited in court rent/fee to which only the Wildlife Management Board could be entitled for the preservation, conservation and proper utilisation of the National Park, therefore, the same shall be paid to/withdrawn by the Wildlife Management Board.”

The SC bench in its order also raised questions on the legality of the directorate of the army.

“The Directorate is a component of the Pakistan Army, which operates under the Ministry of Defence of the Federal Government. The Directorate has no separate legal existence yet it acted as if it was a legal entity, executed the said ‘Lease Agreement’ dated 30 September 2019, which was countersigned by its Director-General, Maj General Muhammad Samrez Malik. Vide orders dated 11 and 21 March 2024 the original record was directed to be produced by the senior most officer of the Directorate. The representative of the Directorate did not abide by the said orders, therefore, was given another opportunity to produce the original file of the Directorate by the end of the day, but still this was not done. Such intransigence will be attended to in the detailed reasons,” read a five-page written order authored by CJP Isa.


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