ISLAMABAD, Dec 25: Legal hurdles have slowed down the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) drive against businesses violating its building by-laws, according to CDA officials.

“Most of the restaurants, guest houses, bakeries, boutiques and private schools running unlawfully in residential buildings are taking stay orders from courts to secure themselves against the drive launched by the CDA on December 4,” a building control department official informed Dawn.

But he had no numbers for the stay orders. “Every fourth or fifth day, violators confront our legal department with a stay order from some court and there are over 1,200 houses in the city being used for commercial purposes,” said the official.CDA’s Member Planning Syed Mustafain Kazmi shared the official’s grief but said the legal department would continue pursuing the violators of the civic agency’s building by-laws.

“Since a large number of owners of misused buildings have taken stay from local courts, we can’t do much against them. We have to follow the law,” he told Dawn.

Mr Kazmi too would not share the number of stay holders, but was hopeful that the drive would be “completed on merit”.

So far the CDA has sealed eight farm houses and 18 houses for “non-conforming use” of farmland and residential buildings but the court battles slowed down the activity just one week after its start.

CDA’s by-laws empower its deputy commissioner to seal residential premises being used for business purposes. The commissioner can fine a violator maximum of Rs500,000, and levy additional Rs5,000 per day in case of continuous violation.

“We cannot seal a house protected by a stay order and every misuser not holding one would be seeking it,” observed a building control department official.

Those taking cover of courts are flourishing restaurants, bakeries, boutiques and few shops being run in houses in F-6, F-7, F-8, F-10 and G-9 sectors.

This is despite a June 2011 ruling of the Islamabad High Court which upheld CDA’s punitive action in a case of violation of its building by-laws.

In the case Fida Hussain Raja vs CDA Deputy Commissioner, Chief Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman ruled that since the petitioner did not deny the non-conforming use of his house “the notice issued by Deputy Commissioner, CDA is in accordance with CDA rules and suffers no legal infirmity” and dismissed the petition.

A senior lawyer of the high court, Mohammad Afzal, said that the civil justice system in the country allows everyone equal right to seek relief from the court.

“Unless reconfirmed, a stay (order) stands nullified after six months,” he added, suggesting the CDA should take advantage of that.

Islamabad High Court spokesman S. M. Tariq Channa said that “the standing orders of the National Judicial Policy Making Committee provide a certain timeframe to the courts relating to disposing cases on merit in quick manner”.

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