Supreme court puts public interest over private profit

from here

ISLAMABAD, Feb 7: The Supreme Court on Tuesday cancelled a lease that the Capital Development Authority had awarded to a Lahore businessman for developing a mini golf club in a city park by accepting a private petition against the project.

“The petition is accepted,” a three-member bench, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Saiyed Saeed Ashhad and Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, announced with the observation that a detailed judgment would be issued later.

The petition was filed by Maulvi Iqbal Haider, a Karachi- based lawyer and chief of Pakistan Awami Tehrik challenging the conversion of a five-acre public park into a commercial venture.

During the hearings, the chief justice had observed that CDA rules provided that public parks could never be changed into commercial activity, and the bench made it clear to the petitioner that he would not be allowed to withdraw his petition.

The chief justice once observed that perhaps failing in its duty to develop the park, the CDA handed it over for commercial activity.

Capital Development Authority Chairman Kamran Lashari was summoned by the apex court and directed to submit the original feasibility of converting the Sector F-7 park into a privately-run mini-golf club. But when CDA’s counsel Malik Mohammad Nawaz told the court that the record was not available due to shifting of the Planning and Development Wing of the authority, the court asked him to submit this in writing with the chairman’s signatures so that Inspector General of Police of Islamabad could be ordered to register a proper case.

Malik Nawaz then informed the court that the feasibility only contained information about roads, electricity, sewerage, water and gas lines and nothing else.

The court also retained certain office files of CDA regarding awarding of contract to the owner of Al-falah Mini Golf Club in Lahore, Mr Shah Sharabeel.

During the hearing, Mr Sharabeel offered to withdraw from the project provided the CDA compensate him since he had already spent Rs18 million on the site. However the CDA rejected the offer and the court suggested him to file a damages suit to recover the money.

The counsels of both the CDA and Mr Sharabeel failed to convince the court that the public park could be converted into a commercial venture or as to why Mr Sharabeel was asked to match the bid of Rs2.5 million earlier offered by a firm Family Entertainment.

CDA’s laws say that public parks, graveyards, incidental open spaces etc will be developed by the authority only, the chief justice observed adding that if people start commercial activities in future, the CDA would repent not adhering to its original policy.

Advocate Ahmer Bilal Soofi argued that when Islamabad was conceived, parks were deliberately not defined clearly for future upgradation into amusement or recreation parks.

Article 26 of the Constitution also guarantees that citizens can not be denied from wholesome entertainment and it is the responsibility of the city regulator to strike a balance between maintaining parks and converting them into amusement parks for quality family entertainment.

Advocate Soofi explained that the mini-golf course was not exclusively for the elite, rather it would be accessible to all. Earlier the snooker was considered a leisure activity for rich and famous but when it was made accessible to all, an unemployed youth of Pakistan became world champion, he said.

Such projects were necessary to present the soft image of Pakistan — an image for which President Pervez Musharraf was clamouring since long, he said adding any adverse decision by the court would have bad consequences and the capital would remain a dry city where life ends after sunset.

It is necessary to lure children to outdoor games instead of remaining glued to their computers inside, he emphasized.

During the hearing, the court also inquired about the Lahore Suzu park incident in which four children were killed when a merry-go-round snapped. The court was told that all accused were acquitted after striking a compromise and the licence for the park operator was still valid.

The court was also told that 27 acres of land near Faizabad has been given to another party at Rs100,000 per month rent to develop a ‘dirt motorcycle track’ for young people.

“You need to motivate youth through tangible projects,” the advocate argued.

1 Comment so far

  1. Asma (unregistered) on February 13th, 2006 @ 1:09 am

    Public’s interest over private profit … seems odd enough … but atlast some good judgement!!!!!!!!!!!

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