ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday decided 35 identical petitions seeking compensations for thousands of people whose inherited lands had been acquired for the development of residential sectors in the federal capital.
In the landmark judgement, Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had misused its powers of acquiring land from villagers to develop sectors mainly for the elite class. On the other hand, the affected villagers were still running from pillar to post to get compensation for their inherited land.
Some of the petitions had been pending adjudication for over a decade.
The court ordered that the affected landowners shall be compensated in accordance with the prevailing market value of their land. It also directed the federal government to devise a uniform policy on land compensation for the development of residential sectors.
IHC orders govt to devise uniform policy on land compensation
While civic agencies failed to compensate about 11,000 affected villagers since decades, the judgement highlighted discrimination.
“During the same period, a large number of plots were allotted at throwaway prices to employees of the CDA, including those who had served as chairmen and members of the Board,” the order said.
Justice Minallah noted that plots were created for them in open spaces and green areas in most sought-after developed sectors.
Plots were also allotted to public functionaries of specified groups, including selected mediapersons and lawyers, at prices that were far lower than the market rate.
The judgement stated that 23,844 plots were allotted to the employees and officials of the CDA while “the share of other privileged groups was 7,127 plots against nominal payments”.
The court observed: “Facts brought on record during the proceedings manifested the worst and unthinkable form of abuse of land acquisition or the power of eminent domain of the state and the resultant grave violations of fundamental rights of the victims whose properties were or are in the process of being subjected to condemnation.”
Justice Minallah observed: “The petitions in hand were only a tip of the iceberg and the information brought on record later was shocking and inconceivable in a society which claims to be governed under the Constitution.”
After the promulgation of the CDA ordinance, the process for acquiring land was initiated and the first award was announced on Feb 12, 1961.
In order to ‘compensate’ the landowners, policies and regulations were issued from time to time.
According to reports submitted to the court by the CDA, total 304.62 sq-km land has so far been acquired. For reasons best known to the CDA, a practice was adopted at a later stage to acquire land and built-up properties separately.
The awards were announced separately but not simultaneously. The CDA has so far announced 527 awards for land acquisition and 158 awards for built-up properties.
In case of land, the last award was announced on June 23, 2009, and for built-up property on July 6, 2018.
In some cases, awards in respect of land were announced a decade ago but corresponding awards relating to built-up properties have been delayed and not been finalised yet.
As per the court order, “This practice of announcing separate awards has created insurmountable complications because it has defeated the essence of ‘compensation’.”
When the first report was submitted by the CDA, the total outstanding amount against the admitted claims of compensation for acquiring land was Rs8.0224 billion.
While the petitions were pending before IHC, some payments were made to the affected people on the intervention of a commission notified by the CDA but on the basis of awards which had been announced decades ago.
Justice Minallah termed the meagre compensation as “copper for gold”.
“This court was informed that most of the outstanding amount pertains to awards dated Dec 2, 2008, and Jan 15, 2009, respectively. It was also informed that the CDA had announced awards on April 28, 1985, for acquisition of land to develop sectors F-12 and G-12.”
The CDA acknowledged the right of allotment of 10,739 plots to those whose land had been acquired.
The judgement noted that the commission, comprising MNAs Asad Umer, Ali Nawaz Awan and Raja Khurram Nawaz, also appeared to be helpless because of the complex issues created by bad governance and an ineffective executing agency.
The commission had informed the IHC that the directorate of land and rehabilitation and other departments of the CDA, which were responsible for resolving the hardship and grievances of the affected property owners, had not been made fully functional.
Justice Minallah, however, upheld the agreement between the affected people of F-14/15 with the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority.
According to the settlement, a developed plot of one kanal shall be allotted to the landowner for every four kanals and a 10-marla plot for every two kanals.
Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2021