ISLAMABAD     -    The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has said that Capital Development Authority (CDA) had misused its compulsory land acquisition powers to benefit a few and the fundamental rights of victims were violated.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah said this in his written order in the petitions filed by allotees and affectees of CDA sectors including E-12, I-17, H-16, G-12, F-12, Kurri Model Village C-14 and C-15.

In the order, the IHC bench also extended ban on allotment of plots, except through auction and remarked that CDA took land from original owners and distributed it among people from privileged class.

The court observed that the CDA and Federal Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) have developed housing schemes for the privileged and ignored the under-privileged. It also said that compulsory acquisitions through which the CDA and the FGEHF acquire land are meant to benefit a handful of people.

The bench highlighted the difficulties facing original owners of land that was acquired for the development of residential sectors in the capital, stating in its order, “The fundamental rights of persons who were victims of such abuse of power of compulsory acquisition of land continue to be violated. They were displaced decades ago without being compensated.”

In the court order, Justice Athar noted that government entities have allotted plots and houses to members of the upper classes, ignoring the homeless.

He added, “It is ironic that while the state largesse has been distributed amongst the members of few privileged classes, no scheme within the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) has been prepared by the Capital Development Authority or the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation for homeless, low income or other less privileged classes.”

The court observed that land for this purpose is acquired through “compulsory acquisition”, which is disruptive in nature because people who are deprived of the ownership of their land are exposed to enormous economic and social costs.

It said, “However, the power of compulsory acquisition of land cannot be used to violate private property rights. Every affectee has to be generously and timely compensated so as to enable the latter to recover from the negative consequences of being displaced forcibly such as loss of established homes, businesses and social costs. The procedures adopted for compulsory acquisition of land inevitably have to be efficient, fair and legitimate.”

The order further said, “It is obvious from the petitions in hand and grievances of affectees within 1,400 sq miles of Islamabad Capital Territory that this is not how power of compulsory acquisition of land has been used by the authorities. The owners of land have been deprived from their private properties without being properly compensated.”

It continued that in many cases, affected people have been “running from pillar to post for the past six decades to be compensated despite their claims being admitted.”

The court observed that in many cases, people are deprived of their property through the power of compulsory acquisition “to enrich members of selected privileged classes, regardless of whether they were convicted on charges of corruption or had committed serious professional misconduct including violation of the Constitution.”

“The power of compulsory acquisition has obviously been abused to benefit a few,” the court observed.

It directed the interior secretary and CDA chairman to complete the process of compensating affected people and settling all pending compensation claims in 90 days.

It was September 19 when the IHC constituted a commission for compensation for affected landowners and restrained the CDA and FGEHF from allotting plots other than through auctions until longstanding claims of compensation related to the compulsory acquisition of land have been settled. Earlier in May, the court appointed Ali Nawaz Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on CDA affairs, and MNAs Raja Khurram Nawaz and Asad Umar to assist the court with this matter.

The court had asked them to make a commission that included the interior secretary and CDA chairman “to probe into the considerable delay in compensating the affectees and recommending measures for resolving the long standing claims and to ensure that such delays are avoided in future.” Umar had suggested that the federal government, CDA and FGEHF be given reasonable time to implement the commission’s approved recommendations. The interior secretary and CDA chairman have undertaken to complete the proceedings within 90 days.

After issuing the aforementioned directions, the IHC bench deferred hearing in this matter till January 15 next year for further proceedings.