IHC suspends balloting of plots in F-14, F-15 sectors

Business Recorder

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday suspended the balloting of plots in F-14 and F-15 sectors of the federal capital.

A division bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani issued the orders, while petition filed by property owners in villages, Thalla Syedan and Jhangi Syedan in Islamabad district against the acquisition of their land.

The bench stated in its order that the balloting relating to allotment of plots in sectors, F-14 and F-15 stands suspended till the next date of hearing.

It noted, “Our order will not extend to or affect the allotments made in favour of owners whose properties have been acquired.”

The court added, “We expect that before the next date of hearing, the Federal Cabinet would have formulated a policy in conformity with public interest and public use of land acquired by the Authority. We further expect that the Attorney General will assist us on the next date fixed, inter alia, regarding the paramount question that the balloting in case of sectors F-14 and F15 was in conformity with public interest and public use of State property.”

At the very outset, the IHC bench was informed that order, dated 20-08-2021, passed in WP No2949/2021 titled “Asif Parvez, etc v Land Acquisition Collector ICT, etc” was placed before the federal cabinet i.e. the prime minister, and members of the Cabinet in its last meeting.

The court was further informed that the federal cabinet has constituted a committee headed by Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Planning to review the policy regarding acquisition of land by the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority and its subsequent use, ie, its disposal.

The court order stated: “It appears to us that the distribution of acquired land by the Authority is not in accordance with a policy based on public interest. As pointed out in order, dated 20-08-2021, that the beneficiaries of balloting regarding sectors F-14 and F15 included those who have been convicted or dismissed from service on charges of corruption or misconduct. The crucial aspect of conflict of interest also does not appear to have been taken into consideration.”

The bench also said that it was informed that more than 30,000 members are awaiting to be allotted plots since a long time but they have been ignored, while distributing the State land consisting of sectors, F-14 and F-15.

It stated that the federal government, while formulating its policy also has to justify giving preference to a few and ignoring more than 30,000 members of the Authority, while allotting state land e.g. in sectors F-14 and F-15.

During the hearing, the bench was also informed that besides sectors, F-14 and F-15, two other sectors i.e. G-12 and F-12 have also been allocated to the Authority for its distribution to its members at substantially reduced rates than the current market prices.

The court said that it is estimated that in case of each sector, there will be a loss of approximately Rs200 to Rs300 billion to the exchequer because the acquired land is not disposed of through auction nor offered for sale to the general public at current market rates.

It remarked that the most intrusive power of the State and a fundamental attribute of its sovereignty is its inherent power to condemn private property and transfer its ownership to the government without the consent of its owner.

“Such property can only be acquired for public purpose and its subsequent use also has to be in public interest. The Federal Government is expected to satisfy us that the phenomenon of loss to the exchequer and extending extra ordinary pecuniary benefit to some individuals meets the threshold of public use of State property acquired through exercising the power of eminent domain. It is for the Federal Government to satisfy us that the distribution of acquired land by the Authority is in public interest and for public use,” added the bench.

It maintained that the court, therefore, expects that the committee constituted by the federal cabinet headed by Asad Umar will, inter alia, take into consideration the aforementioned factors and those highlighted in this Court’s order, dated 20-08-2021.

The court directed the registrar office to issue notice to the Attorney General for assistance, while it directed the Housing Authority submit replies in all the petitions before the date fixed.

The deputy commissioner of the Authority informed the bench that some of the owners in case of properties acquired for sector G-14 are not cooperating and, therefore, the processing of payment of compensation is being delayed.

The bench said, “The Authority shall be at liberty to proceed in accordance with law and in case of non-cooperation by the petitioner land owners, the same be brought to our attention by filing an application.”

The case was adjourned until October 14.

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