IHC orders sealing of Navy Sailing Club

Updated 24 Jul 2020

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Says occupation of land, construction of the club's building is illegal and violates enforced laws. — Photo courtesy Navy Sailing Club Facebook page
Says occupation of land, construction of the club's building is illegal and violates enforced laws. — Photo courtesy Navy Sailing Club Facebook page

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday ordered sealing of the Navy Sailing Club on the Rawal Lake, saying the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the naval official could not explain any plausible justification for the construction of such a lucrative structure at the bank of a water reservoir.

The order was issued by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah during the hearing of a petition filed against the construction of the navy club and blocking of the public access to Rawal Lake.

“Prima facie, the occupation of the land and construction of building thereon are illegal and in violation of the enforced laws. It is, therefore, ordered that till the next date fixed the federal government, through the secretary cabinet, and the chairman, Capital Development Authority, shall seal the premises,” the court ordered.

The court directed the cabinet division secretary to place the matter before the federal cabinet at its next meeting for consideration because the enforced laws are not being implemented and that enforcement has been confined to common citizens.

Says occupation of land, construction of building is illegal and violates enforced laws

“This different treatment is unacceptable and has become a matter of routine in the past one decade. After the matter has been considered by the cabinet, the secretary cabinet shall submit a report on or before July 30, 2020, informing this court about decisions taken by the cabinet regarding the abysmal state of implementation and enforcement of enacted laws, which inevitably leads to violation of fundamental rights,” the court ordered.

Dr Shahid Mehmood, CDA member (planning), who appeared in compliance with the court’s July 16 order, was asked whether the commercial building had been constructed by the Pakistan Navy after getting approvals/NOCs required to be obtained under the Capital Development Authority Ordinance, 1960, and regulations.

He was initially hesitant to answer the query, but later conceded that no approval was obtained from the competent authority.

When asked whether the land occupied by the navy had been allotted, and if so, the allotment letter might have been submitted, Mr Mehmood said the land was not allotted. He said the area was environmentally sensitive and admitted that mandatory requirements, under the Environmental Protection Act, 1997, were not complied with before starting the construction of the illegal building, which was purportedly being used as a club and that too for commercial purposes.

The court observed that the statement made on behalf of the regulator — the Capital Development Authority — was indeed alarming and raised serious questions regarding the status of rule of law and disregard for protecting an environmentally sensitive area from harm.

“The Capital Development Authority appears to have failed in its statutory duty or it is complacent. It is noted that no one can be allowed to break the law. No one is above the law and every citizen has to be treated equally. It has been consistently observed that it has become a norm for the Capital Development Authority and other agencies to promptly take action against those who are common citizens and who do not have the means to influence, while the privileged and elites are being treated differently. This is unacceptable for a democratic polity governed under a Constitution which guarantees fundamental rights,” the court noted.

Commander Khawar Zaman, who appeared on behalf of the chief of the naval staff, sought some time to submit a report on the matter.

“The chairman and the board members [of the CDA] are directed to submit their separate affidavits explaining why proceedings may not be ordered to be initiated for what, prima facie, appears to be gross negligence and dereliction of their statutory obligations or complacency. The Capital Development Authority chairman and the cabinet secretary shall submit before the registrar their respective compliance reports,” the court order said.

Earlier, the counsel for petitioner Zainab Janjua argued that the Pakistan Navy had illegally constructed a building on Rawal Lake that denied access of the public to the water reservoir.

According to the petition, the “illegal occupation” of the land, construction of the building and denial of access to a public place is in violation of the CDA Ordinance, 1960, as well as the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2020