ISLAMABAD - A larger bench of the Islamabad High Court Monday declared illegal construction of houses or buildings of any nature in Golra Revenue Estate or the area comprising Bani Gala.

The three-member bench of IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akthar Kayani issued a detailed judgment in this matter and directed the federal government to constitute a commission in this matter.

In its 103-page detailed verdict, the larger bench noted: “As it has become inevitable to review the existing master plan and assess its efficacy, we direct the federal government to forthwith take steps of constituting a commission of professional experts, preferably of international repute, in the field of town planning, environmental management and finance. The commission shall make recommendations to the federal government. The terms of reference shall also be formulated by the experts.

The federal government is expected to complete the proceedings within six months from the date of receiving a certified copy of this judgment.

The petitions in this case were divided into category-A and category-B. The petitions in category-A were related to the area known as “Bani Gala” while category-B petitions were in respect of Sector E-11. 2.

In all the petitions, the petitioners challenged the construction of various types of buildings. In the petitions listed in category-A, the petitioners asserted the respondent initiated the construction of a high-rise building without obtaining approval from the Capital Development Authority. The area where this construction is intended to be carried out is near Kurang Road, Bani Gala, in Islamabad.

In the petitions listed in category-B, the respondents have either constructed or are in the process of starting construction of various types of buildings in Sector E-11. The proposed buildings are mostly of a commercial nature. In one of these petitions, the petitioner has challenged refusal on the part of the authority to enforce the regulations made under the Capital Development Authority Ordinance, 1960.

It is the case of the petitioners that high-rise and other buildings of a commercial nature cannot be constructed within the area known as Bani Gala or in the unacquired areas of Sector E-11. Moreover, the authority, pursuant to a decision taken by the federal cabinet in 2004, has restrained the Islamabad Electric Supply Company and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited from extending the facilities of giving utility connections to owners and occupiers of such buildings as have been constructed in violation of the ordinance and the regulations/rules made under it.

In a nutshell, the petitioners have raised the issue regarding the regulations of the construction of buildings outside the acquired lands falling within the area known as the Islamabad Capital Territory.

The court stated in the verdict: “For what has been discussed above, we allow these petitions and declare that construction of houses or buildings of any nature, whether in Golra Revenue Estate or the area comprising Bani Gala which have been or are intended to be constructed in violation of the master plan, the ordinance of 1960, the Zoning Regulations of 1992, the ordinance of 1966 and Wildlife Ordinance, 1979, as the case may be, are illegal, without lawful authority and jurisdiction and thus liable to be demolished as mandated under the Ordinance of 1960 and the regulations made it.”

It added none of the respondents have been able to place on record any document to establish the legality of their buildings. The authority is the sole regulator while the union councils are not authorised to grant any approval contrary to or in violation of the ordinance of 1960 and the regulations made under it.

“We also declare that in case of any violation, the chairman and each member of the authority shall be jointly and separately liable for breach of duties and obligations imposed under the ordinance of 1960. The Islamabad Capital Territory chief commissioner shall be equally responsible if the legal framework in the unacquired areas is violated. We also declare that the Authority is the exclusive and sole regulator and the provisions of the ordinance of 1960 and the regulations made in the light of it are attracted in case a private housing authority is established in any part of the Islamabad Capital Territory,” maintained the IHC larger bench.

It continued the destruction and damage caused to the master plan has solely benefited the privileged classes, which is exactly opposite to the vision of the founding planners of Islamabad. The larger public interest ought to prevail. “We have been consistently observing and reiterating that Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, has become a classic example of the rule of men rather than the rule of law,” the bench held

“The looming imminent environmental crisis on account of unregulated urbanisation and illegal construction can neither be taken lightly nor ignored. All those who have allowed this to happen ought to be held accountable because they have endangered lives and have not been fair to the future generations. The doctrine of necessity is alien to the rule of law. Saving the environment from further destruction and degradation must take precedence over the interests of a few. There must not be any hesitation to bring down any illegal structure if even the remotest possibility of damage to the environment exists. It is the larger public interest that must prevail. If urgent steps are not taken, posterity will never forgive those who today are in a position to enforce and implement the spirit and essence of laws which have been flagrantly and mercilessly violated for more than seven decades. Laws which were supposed to protect the rights of the citizens have been used as tools to abuse those very rights. Justice delayed is justice denied and it is never too late to put an end to the perpetuation of injustice. “Fiat justitia ruat caelum” (Let justice be done even if the heavens fall), said the verdict.