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SC reverses IHC's order on Grand Hyatt lease, orders builder to pay Rs17.5bn to CDA in 8 years

Updated January 09, 2019

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CJP asks why CDA took 13 years to point out that the Grand Hyatt was built on area within the national park. — File
CJP asks why CDA took 13 years to point out that the Grand Hyatt was built on area within the national park. — File

The Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the Islamabad High Court's order which upheld the July 2016 cancellation of a plot meant for the Grand Hyatt hotel by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) over violations of building by-laws.

M/s BNP was allotted a plot for the purpose of constructing a luxury Grand Hyatt hotel in 2004, but it instead built luxury apartments that were sold to various buyers. These buyers include high-profile figures such as Prime Minister Imran Khan.

An SC bench comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Faisal Arab has been hearing an appeal filed by BNP against the IHC's order.

Through its lawyer Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, BNP in December last year had offered that they were ready to pay the CDA Rs15 billion for the regularisation of the plot over a 20-year period, on the assurance that an ongoing inquiry by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) would be dropped and they would be permitted to utilise the land for commercial ventures without any interference or restrictions from the CDA.

The bench had expressed surprise that the developer set a 20-year period to clear the CDA’s dues, but had directed that BNP's proposal be placed before the federal cabinet, which will in turn come up with a way to resolve the matter. However, the company's proposal was rejected by the CDA at the time.

Today, the bench gave BNP eight years to complete the payment of Rs17.5 billion in instalments for the plot's lease to CDA.

The order was given despite CDA's request to let the federal cabinet rule on the matter in a meeting scheduled to be held tomorrow. The bench maintained that the federal cabinet will not be able to rule on the matter as the CDA had already rejected the proposal by BNP.

Earlier in the hearing, the CDA raised objections on Justice Ahsan's inclusion on the bench, citing his previous association with BNP as their lawyer. The chief justice, however, dismissed the objection saying that Justice Ahsan's previous association with the BNP had no bearing on the current case.

"Was the CDA sleeping for 13 years [while the towers were being constructed]? Now, when two towers have been built, the authority is saying that they fall within the Margalla Hills National Park area and should be demolished," the chief justice said.

He added: "The Supreme Court's building and the secretariat also fall in the area, shall those be demolished too?"

"People have bought apartments in the Grand Hyatt," he said while adding that half of Islamabad has been "built wrong".

"You [CDA] did not even have proper regulations, Tariq Fazl Chaudhry [former Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) minister] had to write them for you. Is this the CDA's performance?" Upon this the CDA Chairman Afzal Latif, who was present in court, said that employees of the authority had defrauded it.

"You did not remember this fraud for 13 years? Why should the people who spent four billion to buy those apartments have to suffer now," replied the chief justice.