ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to amend Land Acquisition Act to exclude ‘housing’ from land acquisition for public purposes to the extent of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), as development plans of CDA had been delayed and balloting was not undertaken due to fear of NAB, well informed sources told Business Recorder.
This decision was taken at a recent meeting of the Federal Cabinet, when the issue of Sector E-12, Islamabad High Court (IHC) judgment of June 14, 2021 and recommendations of subsequently constituted ministerial committee came under discussion.
The Interior Division briefed the Cabinet that a meeting of the cabinet committee on above subject was held under the chairmanship of Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives on September 9, 2021, to deliberate upon the cases referred by the court as well as of other victims and make recommendations as well as suggest policy regarding development of sectors in Islamabad Capital Territory to the cabinet. Minister for Human Rights, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Establishment and representatives from Ministry of Housing and Works attended the meeting.
The Cabinet committee was briefed that Islamabad High court, had directed the Ministry of Interior in its judgment in writ petition 244/2021 titled Noman Ahmed and others vs the CDA to place the matter before the Federal Cabinet. Subsequently, the Ministry of Interior submitted a summary to the cabinet on July 7, 2021. The federal Cabinet considered the summary and constituted a ministerial committee on July 27, 2021 under chairmanship of Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiative comprising Minister for Law and Justice, Minister for Human Rights and Advisor to the Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior as Members. The Islamabad High Court, Islamabad had directed to formulate policy guidelines regarding land acquisition, compensation and development issues.
Briefly, the IHC directions to the federal government were as follows: (i) power of compulsory acquisition or eminent domain had been abused by the concerned authorities by denying to the affected property owners their acknowledged vested rights including allotment of plots or payment in monetary terms being their constitutional right and directed to formulate a policy regarding enforcement of acknowledged vested rights of the affected citizen who were subjected to power of eminent domain; (ii) probe failure on the part of the concerned authorities who violated the power of eminent domain causing unimaginable agony and trauma to the citizens whose vested right to be compensated had been acknowledged; (iii) reassessment of the market value of those awards announced before 2010 which had lost their efficacy and had a confiscatory effect; (iv) formulate a policy to enforce the acknowledged vested right of allotment of plots to more than ten thousand affected property owners without further delay and give such directions to the CDA or any other authority as necessary in this regard; (v) direct CDA for establishment of a redressal mechanism to address the grievances of the affected property owners observing that it was the duty of the CDA to reach out directly to each affected citizen who had been denied the acknowledged right of compensation; (vi) to set a time frame (6 months) for effectively enforcing the acknowledged rights while formulating a policy; (vii) a policy should be formulated in a uniform, transparent and fair manner including land acquisition, determination of market value and rehabilitation benefits in case of exercise of the power of eminent domain by the concerned authorities to ensure that it was in consonance with the rights of the citizens likely to be affected and duties of the public functionaries towards them; (viii) to review the existing laws relating to compulsory acquisition with the aim of protecting the rights of the citizens, with respect to compensation so that they cater to the evolving socio economic circumstances, who were subjected to the power of eminent domain – an exhortation emphasized by the august Supreme Court of Pakistan in various judgments; and (ix) to formulate a policy regarding development of sectors in order to ensure that sector E-12 was developed and possession of plots was handed over to the allottees without unnecessary delay.
The cabinet committee, after detailed discussion recommended the following for placement before the cabinet for its consideration:
For immediate purposes a committee having representation of MOI, CDA and ICT might be constituted to probe the failure on the part of the authorities who violated the power of eminent domain resulting in the denial/delay of the citizens’ right to be compensated which had been acknowledged. The probe would be headed by a retired judge of a high court or equivalent and decided within 90 days of his appointment. It was clarified that during the proceedings of this committee CDA should continue its functioning as per its statutory mandate.
Regarding the Grievance Redressal Mechanism, the CDA Board, in terms of section 5 of the CDA, Ordinance 1960, should act as the grievance redressal mechanism apex body. A victim feeling aggrieved by the decision of CDA may file a written application for redressal of grievance before the Board as an Appellate Forum.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021