ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday asked the Cabinet Division secretary for a compliance report on its judgement against illegal constructions by Pakistan Navy and, in case of non-compliance, asked him to appear in person.

An IHC division bench consisting of Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb was hearing an appeal filed by former chief of naval staff retired Admiral Zafar Mahmud Abbasi against the order passed by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah.

Justice Minallah had ordered the navy sailing club on the banks of Rawal Lake to be razed within three weeks. The ruling also declared the naval farm houses on Simly Dam road ‘illegal’ and gave directions to initiate criminal proceedings against the former naval chief and other officials who authorised the illegal constructions.

Former naval chief’s counsel claims he never violated oath of office, seeks relief from criminal proceedings

The court had also ordered the Cabinet Division secretary to place the judgment before the prime minister and the federal cabinet so they could take measures to restore the rule of law in the federal capital.

Admiral Abbasi’s counsel Ashtar Ausaf argued that the single member bench had fixed responsibility on the former naval chief without even examining the available record.

He was seeking interim relief from the court against the directions seeking criminal proceeding against his client, but the court however asked him not to worry.

When the bench asked Additional Attorney General Qasim Wadud about the status of the case and whether the judgement had been placed before the federal cabinet, Mr Wadud expressed ignorance of the matter.

Justice Aurangzeb then ordered him to obtain a compliance report from the cabinet secretary and said that in case the order has not been acted upon, the secretary should be called to appear in person on Wednesday, when the court will take up this case again.

During the hearing, Ashtar Ausaf argued that Admiral Abbasi never violated his oath and was not involved in encroaching upon state land.

In his order, Justice Minallah had declared that “the Pakistan Navy had trespassed on the land situated on the embankment of Rawal Lake and that too in a protected national park area. The occupation of the land was illegal, without lawful authority and jurisdiction.”

He ruled that “Admiral Zafar Mehmud Abbassi… violated his oath and transgressed his constitutional duty by inaugurating an illegal building on encroached land in violation of the Act of 1997 and the Ordinance of 1960…” and directed the federal government to proceed against the former naval chief.

Advocate Ausaf pointed out that the sailing club was constructed in 1994 and it was built on land allotted to navy by the then-prime minister.

When Justice Aurangzeb referred to the report of environmental consultant and termed it “damning” for the ecosystem and Rawal Lake, Advocate Ausaf contended that a report on the contamination of Rawal Lake – prepared in 2015 – did not contain any adverse finding against the sailing club.

According to him, the bench “overlooked” the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the sailing club, which had recommended the installation of a sewerage treatment plant.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2022

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