Court tells top CDA officers: No salary until villagers get their Rs12bn
ISLAMABAD, July 23: Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court has attached the salaries of chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), and some 70 of his subordinates, until the villagers affected in Sectors H-16 and I-17 are paid Rs12 billion in compensation as ordered by the Lahore High Court in 2010.
In its order, the Rawalpindi bench of the LHC had given CDA three months to pay the money to about 600 residents of villages Kot Kholian, Noon, and Badhana, who had surrendered 16,000 kanals of land they owned there, for the development of Sectors H-16 and I-17.
Justice Siddiqui of the IHC, while hearing identical petitions of the villagers for compensation, had warned the CDA high-ups on July 17 that their salaries could be attached, and bank accounts of the CDA seized if they failed to compensate the affectees within a week.
CDA legal adviser Ramzan Chaudhry told Dawn that the civic agency would challenge the orders for the attachment of salaries of CDA officials and would file an appeal before a division bench of the IHC.
CDA had already challenged the July 17, he said.
Mr Chaudhry told the court that the authority had offered different options for compensating the affected villagers for their acquired land but they did not accept even a single option.
He said the CDA was facing the worst financial crunch and could not make payment to the villagers in the short time the court gave it. The matter of making the payment was still under process, he added.
Advocate Chaudhry sought more time but the court observed that the CDA was reluctant to compensate the poor villagers despite clear directions from the courts.
The court made release of salaries of CDA bosses conditional to the payment to the affected villagers and adjourned the matter for a date to be fixed by the registrar office.
In their over 50 petitions, the villagers stated that after the announcement of sectors H-16 and I-17 in 2009, the CDA acquired their inherited land but did not compensate them.
In 2010, the petitioners said, they filed an appeal in the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court and the court directed the CDA to compensate the villagers in three months. When that did not happen, the villagers moved contempt of court proceedings in the Islamabad High Court in March 2011.
Last September, the CDA placed five options before the court for compensating the affectees. They included a land sharing scheme, deferred payments; urged them to wait for the grant of government loan of Rs15 billion to the CDA, or enter into joint ventures with private parties for the development of H-16 and I-17 sectors. As a last resort, the CDA offered de-notification of the acquired land. The affected villagers, however, rejected all options. In March this year, the CDA again tabled the same options for compensating the villagers but the affectees did not budge.
The petitioners’ counsel put to the court that just before the CDA announced the sectors in 2009, Bahria Town and “influential Khokhars” had purchased 2,880 kanals of land in sectors H-16 and I-17, from different villagers at cheap rates and sold them to the CDA for Rs3 billion at higher rates. But the CDA was not willing to pay a fair price to the villagers who had been living in the area for centuries.
CDA chairman Farkhand Iqbal, when contacted, said he was a law abiding officer and the court order would be implemented in letter and spirit. But, he added, affected villagers could not be compensated with the salaries of CDA officers as a huge amount is required for that.
It was a chronic issue, according to him. CDA could have easily paid the villagers when the sectors were announced as it was financially stable at that time. But the worldwide recession and the financial crises that accompanied the war on terror put the CDA also in a serious financial crunch as price of land has tumbled, he explained.
Meanwhile, IHC Justice Mohammad Anwar Khan Kasi also took up an appeal filed by five CDA officials – directors general planning Ghulam Sarwar Sandhu, Syed Imran Shah, director municipal administration, Mansoor Ahemd Khan and directors Riaz Ahmed Randhawa, and Haseen Raza Zaidi against their proposed indictment on July 27 by IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui for defying the orders of May 14 in which the court restrained them from meeting Faisal Sakhi Butt the alleged virtual lord of CDA.
Raja Amir Abbas, the appellants counsel, filed the appeal under contempt of court act 2012. The court observed that some relevant documents, including the show-cause notices, issued to the alleged five contemnors were not attached with the appeal and directed the counsel to produce the relevant documents on next date of hearing.