ISLAMABAD, April 15: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to take over a housing project after declaring its agreement with a private company for developing 54 acres land in the northern strip of sector E-11 ‘illegal’.

Under a joint venture agreement (JVA), the project was given to the Multi-Professional Cooperative Housing Society (MPCHS) in 2008.

“Clause (iv) of regulation 4(1) A of the Islamabad Capital Territory (Zoning) Regulation 1992 is inconsistent with sections 12 and 13 read with section 2(a) and (j) and consequently the JVA entered with MPCHS is rendered inoperative and ineffective qua CDA,” the verdict by a bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said.

The SC took suo motu notice after media reports alleged irregularities in the award of the contract to the society.

The judgement said the land of Islamabad, being the capital of the country, belonged to the “entire public of Pakistan”.

It ordered the CDA Board to take over and complete the project in accordance with the provisions of the CDA Ordinance 1960. The authority’s chairman will ensure implementation of the SC direction by submitting a compliance report within a month from the date of the judgement.

Meanwhile, the MPCHS, according to the judgement, was allowed to pursue recovery of any amount – believed to be over Rs1 billion – spent on the project.

Earlier during the proceedings, the court was told that the amendments brought in the Islamabad Capital Territory (Zoning) Regulation 1992, which divided the capital’s territory into five zones, were in fact an attempt to benefit MPCHS president and former cabinet secretary, K U Faruqui, who had prepared the summary of the project for the then prime minister.

The verdict said a proviso in the regulation was added to swindle a public property valuing billions of rupees for the benefit of Mr Faruqui, raising the issue of transparency about the joint venture agreement. The verdict said it smacked of ‘mala fide’ intentions.

“Admittedly it is a prime land situated in sector E-11, which is a most expensive location of the capital city,” the verdict said.

It added that the CDA, a statutory body, was mandated not only to make arrangements for planning and development of the capital city, but also to perform functions of a municipal committee to promote interests of different sections of the society, including taxpayers. “Any transaction, which is not transparent, and goes against the interests of the general public is a violation of article 9 of the constitution, which guarantees right to life to all persons,” the judgement emphasised.

Explaining ‘right to life’ as interpreted by superior courts in a number of cases, the verdict said it included right to livelihood, acquire, hold and dispose of property, and to acquire suitable accommodation, “which could not hang on to fancies of individuals in authority”. It said it also included right to food, water, decent environment, education, medical care and shelter, adding that a fundamental right cannot be snatched away or “waived off pursuant to any JVA”.

The CDA entered into a joint venture agreement with MPCHS in December 2008. After completing formalities MPCHS got vacated the land from occupants and started working on the project, which is now near completion. Interestingly, the CDA has not spent a single rupee on acquiring the land, preparation of its master plan, engineering designs and the development work.

In its claim the CDA stated that in 1968, 654 acres in Golra Revenue Estate comprising sectors E-11 (203 acres), E-12 (36 acres), F-11 (45 acres), F-12 (77 acres) and Blue Area (293 acres) were exempted from acquisition by the federal government with the approval of Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, then president of Pakistan.

In 1969, the CDA acquired land falling in sector E-11 at a nominal cost of Rs208 per kanal, but did not announce award for houses/built up property nor any compensation/allotment of plots was made to the affected occupants. In 1983, the CDA with the approval of then president decided to exchange and consolidate in E-11 the land of Golra Revenue Estate in sectors F-11, F-12, E-12 and Blue Area.

In 1986, six cooperative housing societies, including the National Police Foundation, with the approval of CDA purchased land in sector E-11, took possession from the affected occupants and developed it.

Only 78 acres located in the northern strip of sector E-11 remained with the CDA. Subsequently, 24 acres were allotted to locals against their claims, leaving behind 54 acres.

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