Islamabad - The Islamabad High Court yesterday issued notices to Capital Development Authority in a petition moved by the owner company of multi-storey under-construction building of Grand Hyatt Hotel.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah conducted the hearing of the petition filed against the lease cancellation notification issued by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on July 29, 2016.

However, the court rejected BNP’s request to issue stay order in this matter saying that such orders could not be passed without hearing the other party.

Petitioner BNP CEO moved the court through Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and requested the court to direct CDA not to take any adverse action during pendency of this writ petition that the court accepted.

After issuing the aforementioned directions, the court adjourned the hearing in this matter till August 16 for further proceedings.

The BNP Private Ltd, previously an allottee of the 13.45 acres of land at Constitution Avenue, has challenged before the court CDA’s decision to cancel its lease.

It was July 1 when CDA had sealed the area where a five-star hotel, Grand Hyatt, and around 240 serviced apartments were under construction. After BNP challenged sealing of this area, the CDA had alleged before the IHC that gross illegalities were done in this project by BNP and some previous office-bearers of the civic agency.

In this regard, the CDA informed the IHC on August 01 that its governing board on July 29 had cancelled lease of land to the BNP. An IHC bench hearing in the petition of BNP then turned down the case with observations that it has become infructuous in the changed circumstances.

The petitioner BNP challenged lease cancellation notification through Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and adopted that it did not violate any law but it was inefficiency of the CDA officials instead that caused the petitioner huge financial losses.

It was stated in the petition that CDA on September 28, 2004 advertised in national press auction of land for constructing of a five-star hotel, service apartments and other allied facilities. The earlier bidding process for the plot was scrapped by CDA due to insufficient response from prospective bidders. Only two companies participated, both owned by the same group.

The petitioner added that as per the new advertisement the lease was for a period of ninety nine (99) years. Fifteen per cent of the bid amount was to be submitted within 45 days of acceptance of bid. The remaining 85% of the bid amount was to be paid over a period of 15 years.

He continued that in an open auction on March 09, 2005 BNP Group was the highest bidder at Rs 75,000 per square yard and thus the successful bidder. Less than a month before the land for Serena Hotel was sold on February 12, 2005 at a price of Rs-14,500/- per square yard petitioner told the court. The total lease price of the land was Rs 4.882 billion.

The counsel for the petitioner contended that lease deed for the plot was signed between CDA and BNP (Private) Limited on July 28, 2005 while possession of the plot was not handed over to the BNP till October 04, 2006, which is the date of commencement of lease.

He argued that petitioner was not only given possession of the plot quite late but it was also asked to revise building plan due to the earthquake of October 2005 when CDA had revised building codes in Islamabad. Petitioner then submitted revised building plans that were approved on March 29, 2008. 

The counsel said that on May 5, 2006 petitioner submitted an application with CDA for rescheduling of payments due to the reason that CDA had delayed in handing over possession of the plot and the revision of building plans, which had earlier been submitted to CDA and the said application was approved by CDA board.

The petitioner further narrated in the petition that only six month after the works commenced at the site, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) raised objections as to the height of the building i.e. 725 feet as agreed and approved by the CDA. As per agreement CDA was responsible for obtaining NOCs from the concerned departments or agencies petitioner said. After CAA raised objections, CDA wasted almost 1.5 years without any resolution of the issue.  Ultimately height of the building was then reduced by CAA to 330.64 feet from already approved 725 feet, which cut the building almost in half. Petitioner then filed a Civil Suit against CDA and filed a claim of Rs 6.23 billion. Afterwards a settlement was done between the petitioner and CDA.

He maintained that the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) in its audit report conducted for CDA for 2011-2012 raised objections and alleged that the rescheduling of payment was unauthorized.

The audit objections were placed before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) while no intimation was given to petitioner.

The petitioner was not afforded any opportunity to present its case before the PAC. The PAC then in a hasty and unconstitutional manner recommended that the matter should be referred to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation, and works at site to be stopped.

The petitioner then impugned these directions before the IHC that suspended these.  In spite of the fact that the PAC directives had been suspended, NAB and FIA were rigorously proceeding with the inquiry, on the same subject.

He adopted that the company has been targeted at the whims of influential persons.

Therefore, he prayed to the court that unilateral cancellation of the lease deed by CDA Board is illegal, unlawful and contrary to the fundamental rights of BNP (Private) Limited. He further requested that its lease may be restored.