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ISLAMABAD: Following a court direction, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on Friday allowed owners of 59 private schools to reopen their sealed institutes.

In its latest campaign, the CDA had sealed 59 of the total 367 schools for operating in residential areas.However, the operators of the private schools filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) which provided a temporary relief to them, directing the CDA to de-seal the schools.

After hearing the petition filed by the Private School Association, Justice Aamer Farooq of the IHC observed that the sole grievance of the petitioner was that no prior notice had been issued before sealing the premises.

CDA recently sealed 59 schools set up in residential areas

“Since the regulations 2.17.5 of Building Control Regulations 2005 of Capital Development Authority provides for furnishing of notice prior to sealing of premises therefore respondents have not complied with the same. The act of sealing of premises by the respondents [CDA] is not in accordance with the aforementioned Regulations hence without lawful authority and is set aside,” read the judgment.

However, the sword of Damocles is still hanging over the future of private schools which are operating in residential areas in violations of CDA bylaws as the court ruled that the civic agency shall be at liberty to take action against members of the association for non-conforming use.

After receiving the court orders, a large number of private school owners visited the CDA headquarters and got the keys of their locked schools.

“Since the court has decided in favour of the private school owners, we have given keys of the locked and sealed schools to around 30 operators of schools today. We will ensure de-sealing of all the 59 schools,” said Director Building Control Faisal Naeem.

Private School Association President Zofran Elahi, who also visited the CDA headquarters, told Dawn that their association had got a temporary relief.

“We will continue our efforts in courts and other forums to resolve this issue amicably. Instead of sealing the schools, the CDA should provide us an alternative,” he said.

But officials of the building control directorate, who took part in sealing the schools, said the CDA had started the operation on the directives of courts. They said the IHC had ordered the civic agency to take steps to move the private schools out of the residential areas.

They said in its latest judgment, the IHC had not barred the CDA from sealing schools but ordered for de-sealing of schools on the ground that no prior notice had been issued to their owners before sealing them.

“Now, we will issue fresh 15-day notices to the owners to remove the non-conforming use and on the expiry of the deadline we will go for sealing of the properties,” said an official.

The issue of sealing private schools was also taken up by the CDA board at its meeting on Thursday. It was decided that the private schools would not be allowed to operate in residential areas.

The CDA, which never earmarked plots for private schools in the past, has now decided to explore chances of creation of new plots for purpose-built schools in various residential sectors.

The civic agency is also set to approach the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE), which has been allotted school plots in all the residential sectors, to request it for sharing the unutilised land with private schools.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2018