IHC Asks To Penalise CDA, Pak-EPA Over Bhara Kahu Project

The CDA and Pak-EPA were found guilty of gross mismanagement in the aforementioned project by IHC Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb.

IHC Asks To Penalise CDA, Pak-EPA Over Bhara Kahu Project

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has requested that the federal ombudsperson initiate proceedings against the chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) for environmental law violations during the construction of the Bhara Kahu bypass project.

The CDA and Pak-EPA were found guilty of gross mismanagement in the aforementioned project by IHC Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb. He did, however, allow the project to continue on varsity property, observing that the Bhara Kahu bypass has no impact on educational activities at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU).

“I am of the view that the right to education of the students at QAU is not being restricted or curtailed by the construction of the said road. “With all of this in mind, this court will not use its discretionary jurisdiction to halt construction activity,” Justice Aurangzeb said, dismissing the petitions filed by the QAU’s teaching faculty.

“QAU was inclined toward a quid pro quo with CDA rather than opposing the said road’s construction on its land as a matter of principle,” he said.

During the trial, the petitioners’ counsel, Kashif Ali Malik, argued that the public interest in the road’s construction cannot take precedence over the right to an education.

He also stated that the CDA Board’s decision to exchange QAU’s land for CDA’s land adjacent to the university, made at its 7th meeting on June 17, 2022, was not based on any summary and amounted to a change in Islamabad’s master plan, which could only be made by the federal government.

He contended that the QAU syndicate could not make a decision that would jeopardise the students’ fundamental rights. According to the lawyer, the civic agency violated the law by beginning construction work without first obtaining an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) from Pak-EPA.

QAU’s counsel, Mohammad Munir Paracha, argued that Article 25-A of the Constitution required the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children and expressed apprehension that the construction of the bypass on the university’s land would adversely affect this fundamental right of the students.

The CDA’s counsel, Hafiz Arafat Ahmed, accused the QAU faculty members of attempting to gain unfair advantages by supporting the project.

In its judgement, the court observed that the project had been commenced even before the formal inauguration by the Prime Minister, and “all this was being done prior to the approval of the EIA.”

It may have been the prime minister’s desire for the road to be completed as soon as possible, but it was the responsibility of the officials serving in the CDA and National Logistic Cell (NLC), all of whom are public functionaries or in the service of Pakistan, to have informed him that obtaining approval of the EIA was a mandatory requirement.

The court also noted that the PEPA imposed a fine of Rs 1 million on CDA, which was far less for such an offence in relation to this megaproject.

Section 9 of the 1983 Presidential Order empowered the ombudsperson to investigate any allegation of maladministration on the part of any agency, including the CDA or any of its officers or employees, on a motion made by the high court during the course of any proceedings before it, according to Justice Aurangzeb.

“Given that CDA continued with the construction activity from the date of the issuance of the show cause notice on October 20, 2022, until the approval of the EIA by Pak-EPA, CDA violated the mandatory requirements of Section 12 of the 1997 Act, and this court is referring the maladministration committed by the officials of CDA to the “Wafaqi Mohtasib” for investigation and proceedings in accordance with the law,” the court order stated.