ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday restrained the Capital Development Authority (CDA) from cutting trees in Fatima Jinnah park in the capital city until the next date of hearing.

Let notice be issued to CDA and the government through the Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, said an order dictated by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa after the hearing with an observation that the court had been informed that the apex court had earlier also taken notice under Article 184(3) of the Constitution with regard to illegal activities in the park in a case.

The court also ordered to issue notice to the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB).

The suo motu was taken by the Supreme Court after the registrar of the Supreme Court put up a note before the three-judge committee constituted under section 2 of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023 to consider whether proceedings may be commenced under Article 184(3) of the Constitution or not.

The note had stated that: ‘It has been reported that a larger number of trees have been cut and there is a systematic deforestation taking place in the Fatima Jinnah Park, F-9, Islamabad. Citizens are complaining that the trees which have been cut and the ongoing deforestation is on the directions of CDA and that the Supreme Court should intervene to prevent this valuable resource of the citizens from being destroyed.’

The three-judge committee had directed that this matter be numbered as a constitution petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution and CDA and the government be arrayed as respondents besides the public at large be designated as the petitioner.

“Given the public importance of this matter and its impact on the fundamental rights of citizens of Pakistan, including rights in respect of access to public places under Article 26, which may have been undermined and as it involves deforestation and the cutting of trees which degrades the right to life under Article 9 of the Constitution as interpreted by this court, the two preconditions stipulated in Article 184(3) of the Constitution are met, said the order.

Additional Attorney General (AAG) Malik Javed Iqbal Wains who was also present in the court waived notice on behalf of the government and drew attention of the court to the Islamabad (Preservation of Landscape) Ordinance, 1966 (ordinance) and referred to the definition of ‘landscape’ in its section 2(a), which needed to be preserved as stipulated in section 4 of the ordinance.

AAG also informed the court that the park comprised entire F-9 Sector of Islamabad, and the Park was under the control and management of CDA.

The court ordered CDA to submit a report with explaining the number of trees recently cut and the area which has been deforested.

The report should also include under whose supervision the trees were being felled, on whose direction this action was taken, whether tree-cutting and deforestation were done by CDA personnel themselves or through a contractor, and if the latter, to produce a copy of the contract or agreement.

The court appointed General Secretary Press Association of Supreme Court (PAS) Imran Waseem along with President Mian Aqeel Afzal as joint commissioners under Order XXXII of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980 to visit the Park and take photographs/record videos showing the area where trees have been cut and area deforested.

CDA and the security guards at the Park were also directed to cooperate with the commissioners, who will furnish their report with photographs and recordings on the next date of hearing. The fee of the commissioners will be determined later.

The court also appointed Messrs Saad Mumtaz Hashmi and Syed Hassan Ali Raza, subject to their agreement, to represent the Public. To better assist the court they may personally visit the Park with the commissioners or by themselves, the order said adding till the next date of hearing, CDA will not cut any tree or proceed with further deforestation. The case will again be taken up on March 4.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2024

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