Compulsory acquisitions used to enrich the privileged: IHC

Updated October 20, 2019

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The Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Federal Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) has developed housing schemes for the privileged and ignored the under-privileged, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) observed on Saturday. — AFP/File
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Federal Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) has developed housing schemes for the privileged and ignored the under-privileged, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) observed on Saturday. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Federal Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) has developed housing schemes for the privileged and ignored the under-privileged, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) observed on Saturday.

The court also said that compulsory acquisitions through which the CDA and the FGEHF acquire land are meant to benefit a handful of people.The court highlighted the difficulties facing original owners of land that was acquired for the development of residential sectors in the capital, stating in its order: “The fundamental rights of persons who were victims of such abuse of power of compulsory acquisition of land continue to be violated. They were displaced decades ago without being compensated.”

In a court order issued on compensation for affected landowners from various sectors in the capital, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah noted that government entities have allotted plots and houses to members of the upper classes, ignoring the homeless.

Says compulsory acquisitions are disruptive in nature and cannot be used to violate private property rights

“It is ironic that while the state largesse has been distributed amongst the members of few privileged classes, no scheme within the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) has been prepared by the Capital Development Authority or the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation for homeless, low income or other less privileged classes,” the court added.

It observed that land for this purpose is acquired through “compulsory acquisition”, which is disruptive in nature because people who are deprived of the ownership of their land are exposed to enormous economic and social costs.

The court said: “However, the power of compulsory acquisition of land cannot be used to violate private property rights. Every affectee has to be generously and timely compensated so as to enable the latter to recover from the negative consequences of being displaced forcibly such as loss of established homes, businesses and social costs. The procedures adopted for compulsory acquisition of land inevitably have to be efficient, fair and legitimate.”

It added: “It is obvious from the petitions in hand and grievances of affectees within 1,400 sq miles of Islamabad Capital Territory that this is not how power of compulsory acquisition of land has been used by the authorities. The owners of land have been deprived from their private properties without being properly compensated.”

In many cases, the court order said, affected people have been “running from pillar to post for the past six decades to be compensated despite their claims being admitted.”

The court observed that in many cases, people are deprived of their property through the power of compulsory acquisition “to enrich members of selected privileged classes, regardless of whether they were convicted on charges of corruption or had committed serious professional misconduct including violation of the Constitution.”

“The power of compulsory acquisition has obviously been abused to benefit a few,” the court observed.

It directed the interior secretary and CDA chairman to complete the process of compensating affected people and settling all pending compensation claims in 90 days.

On Sept 19, the IHC constituted a commission for compensation for affected landowners and restrained the CDA and FGEHF from allotting plots other than through auctions until longstanding claims of compensation related to the compulsory acquisition of land have been settled.

Earlier in May, the court appointed Ali Nawaz Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on CDA affairs, and MNAs Raja Khurram Nawaz and Asad Umar amicus to assist the court with this matter.

The court had asked them to make a commission that included the interior secretary and CDA chairman “to probe into the considerable delay in compensating the affectees and recommending measures for resolving the long standing claims and to ensure that such delays are avoided in future.”

Mr Umar had suggested that the federal government, CDA and FGEHF be given reasonable time to implement the commission’s approved recommendations. The interior secretary and CDA chairman have undertaken to complete the proceedings within 90 days.

Further hearing in this matter has been adjourned until Jan 15 next year.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2019