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Govt housing scheme: IHC rules against land acquisition in capital.

Byline: Rizwan Shehzad

ISLAMABAD -- A two-member bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) upheld an earlier verdict rendered by its single bench, terming the acquisition of land for a government employees housing scheme illegal, applying the principle of 'you cannot rob Paul to pay Peter'.

Terming acquisition of land for the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) in Sectors F-14 and F-15 illegal, IHC's Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani declared the move a classic example of deviating from law, violating constitutional guarantees, compromising state assets for personal gain and interest.

The judgment stated, 'The principle of ... 'you cannot rob Paul to pay Peter' applies in this case. Benefit should be drawn for a community of federal government servants in accordance with the terms of objectives of the housing foundation.'

During the course of hearing, the judges observed that the FGEHF paid huge sums to various individuals for acquiring land and even federal government servants who deposited their money against their allotments.

It directed the FGEHF to decide about what to do regarding payments it received from federal government employees for allotments within a period of 30 days. It told the foundation to decide 'whether they want to return the amount or otherwise'.

According to the judgment, the process of acquiring land was in violation of the law from the first day 'as the very purpose behind the acquisition proceedings of areas ... in Sectors F-14 and F-15 are against the scope of Section 11 and 12 of the CDA Ordinance of 1960'.

The judges stated that officials of the CDA, the Ministry of Housing and Works and other officials involved in this process had no authority to 'deviate from the law and create an interest'.

They added that every step taken towards the acquisition of [land in] Sectors F-14 and F-15 'is illegal and void'.

The judgment stated that the FGEHF had been established with a specific objective that did not cover private individuals and 'any scheme prepared by the FGEHF for providing housing facility to its members has to be seen as a private interest'.

The FGEHF, the judgment stated, was allowed to buy any piece of land from open market for their scheme, but when they used state machinery with a limited objective under the companies law, 'their entire working must be seen in the light of their objective only, and the purpose for which the land was acquired was too limited to hold that the same would be used for public purpose'.

Regulation 5 encompassed residential plots and developed sectors in which 75 per cent of plots shall be marketed through open balloting, 10 per cent to federal government servants and employees of autonomous and semi-autonomous organisations, 5 per cent to defence service personnel, 5 per cent to deprived groups, including widows and orphans, and the remaining 5 per cent to CDA employees.

Both regulations were violated by the CDA when it 'issued an 'LOP' to the FGEHF that resulted in conversion of quota beyond the scheme of the Islamabad Land Disposal Regulations of 2005', stated the judgment.

Similarly, it added, if the FGEHF intended to include other classes of people such as doctors, engineers, teachers and businessmen, it could do so after amending their objectives in accordance with the law.

Citing Intra Court Appeals, the judgment noted that people living in village Thallah Syedan raised objections against the proceedings for acquiring land in Sectors F-14 and F-15, 'initiated by the Land Acquisition Collector for 'Public Purpose' at the request and for FGEHF'.

'Feeling aggrieved by the acquisition proceedings, the respondents filed writ petition No3496/2015 which was allowed by IHC's Justice Athar Minallah on August 15, 2017, whereby the acquisition proceedings, all actions and orders relating to acquiring land for FGEHF in Sectors F-14 and F-15 were declared illegal, void and without jurisdiction,' stated the judgment.

'Justice Minallah had held that the CDA is the competent authority for initiating proceedings for acquisition of land in accordance with the provisions of the CDA Ordinance of 1960 and regulations made thereunder for planning and development of Sectors F-14 and F-15 for the general public,' it added.

The IHC's division bench also declared that the decision to acquire land for the FGEHF in both these sectors was illegal. Pronouncing its judgment, the IHC dismissed all intra-court appeals.
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Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:Sep 30, 2018
Words:816
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