One Constitution Avenue case: Govt likely to keep control of building, for now


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By Rizwan Shehzad

After a verdict from the Islamabad High Court last week had termed the construction and sale of flats in the under-construction tower at One Constitution Avenue as illegal, the structure is likely to remain in the government’s control for now.

More so after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan gave public assurances that the money poured into the project by investors and those who bought the flats, was safe and secure.

Following Justice Athar Minallah’s judgment endorsing the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) decision to terminate the land lease of the BNP group, the question had arisen as to what would happen to the billions shelled out by around 240 who’s who to purchase the flats.

However, various quarters – including the civic agency – have ruled out the possibility that the government may demolish the towering structure.

“The structure will remain as it is for now and the fate of the building will be decided at the top level,” Islamabad’s Mayor and the CDA Chairman Sheikh Ansar Aziz said while talking to The Express Tribune.

His comments betray hints of the government plans to keep the incomplete structure in a state of limbo.

The CDA chairman, though, declared the verdict “a victory of the department”, stating that unprecedented stance taken by the civic body in the case had been validated.

Meanwhile, CDA’s additional legal advisor Kashif Ali Malik too hailed the IHC’s decision, saying it not only vindicated CDA’s stance but was a “perfect judgment on CDA’s laws, rules and regulations.”  He added that such decisions would help shun the aura around the civic body that it only takes action against “kiosks”.

Action against govt officials

“Writ of the government has been proved through the judgment and it is also a lesson for those who believe in utilising different channels to achieve what is not permitted under the law,” Aziz said, adding that the CDA did not try to save its officials or hide their alleged negligence while pleading the case.

Instead, he said that the civic agency would help authorities investigating the matter in line with directives of the IHC.

Earlier on Saturday, Nisar had announced in a statement strict action would be taken against those officials and government functionaries who were involved in the matter.

Justice Minallah had reserved some strong remarks for these officials, the CDA, the BNP group and the federal government in his March 3 verdict.

In the judgment, Justice Minallah wrote that government officials were “bending over backwards”, extending undue benefits to BNP in complete disregard of the regulations, causing loss to the exchequer on one hand, and enabling BNP to defraud and deceive the public on the other.

He added that CDA had evidently breached its fiduciary duties and obligations in holding, disposing and managing the property vested in it for the benefit of the people.

Curiously, Justice Minallah believed that all members of the civic agency need to be held accountable over the matter.

“The chairman and each member of the board of the authority [CDA] are jointly and severally responsible … accountable for any loss caused on account of regulatory failure or negligence,” the verdict read.

The court further noted that BNP had committed fraud since the record had unambiguously established that they were conscious that the plot’s lease was never meant for the construction and sale of residential apartments.