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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), Wednesday, directed the amici curiae to visit the slum/shanty settlements in the federal capital, and submit a report regarding the status of fundamental rights of the inhabitants of these areas.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the directions in a petition seeking the court’s directions to bar the Capital Development Authority (CDA) from demolishing the Katchi Abadis in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

The court appointed Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council, Vice Chairman Islamabad Bar Council, Abid Hassan Minto advocate, Abid Saqi Advocate, and Omer Ijaz Gillani as amici curiae to assist the court.

Justice Minallah noted in his order that it is an admitted position that 10 such settlements have been declared as legal and proprietary rights have been granted to more than 4,000 inhabitants.

However, he added that it has been reported that the living condition of the inhabitants are inhuman, cruel and in violation of the guaranteed fundamental rights. It has been reported that these settlements have existed since decades.

Irfan Khan Niazi, Director General (Environment) of the CDA appeared before the court and assured the court that he would visit the shanty/slum settlement in F-7/4 and enquire about the grievances raised in the main petition. He also undertook to submit a report on the date fixed.

The IHC bench noted that vide orders, dated 13-01-2016 and 11-02-2016, passed by the august Supreme Court of Pakistan in Constitutional Petition No41 of 2015 titled “Asim Sajjad Akhtar and others v Federation of Pakistan and others”, directions were, inter alia, given to the CDA and other land development State agencies.

“It appears that meaningful action has not been taken by any entity pursuant thereto,” the order added.

It further said, “It appears to this Court that, prima facie, the development model pursued by the Federal Government and the entities under its control is based on benefiting the privileged classes while the marginalized and poor sections of the society, particularly the shelter-less, are ignored. Such State policies result in inequitable distribution of State assets, which forms the root cause for poverty, hunger, homelessness and most of the other vices that beset humanity.”

Justice Minallah continued that every citizen is entitled to equal protection of law. The marginalised, poor and vulnerable classes cannot be treated less favourable than the privileged and elite. The State and its functionaries owe a higher duty of care towards the marginalised and vulnerable classes such as those who are shelter-less or are living in inhuman conditions in the slum/shanty settlements.

“Development policies which have the characteristics of elite capture are the worst form of violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights and intolerable in a society governed under the Constitution,” maintained the IHC CJ.

The bench directed the CDA to facilitate the learned amici curiae namely, Abid Saqi, Zulfiqar Abbasi, and Umer Gillani to visit the slum/shanty settlements in the ICT.

The court said that the amici curiae are expected to submit a report regarding the status of fundamental rights of the inhabitants of the slum/shanty settlements and they are also expected to assist this Court regarding the questions raised in the previous order dated 10-08-2021.

It also directed the director general, Federal Government Employees Housing Authority to submit a report in the light of order, dated 10-08-2021.

The latter shall also explain in the report why the directions given by the august Supreme Court vide the aforementioned orders have not been implemented.

The representative of the director general, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency has stated that officials have been nominated in compliance with order, dated 10-08-2021, and that a report will be submitted before the next date of hearing.

The counsel for the CDA stated that notices were issued to the petitioners because he and many others have made illegal constructions in the area of the Soan River.

The bench said that the CDA shall be at liberty to proceed strictly in accordance with law and subject to the directions given by the august Supreme Court in the aforementioned orders and deferred the hearing till September 22.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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