The Islamabad High Court dismissed claims related to improper use of property located in the federal capital.
Judge Aamer Farooq dismissed petitions from 70 guest house owners who, along with others, challenged the advice of the Capital Development Authority (CDA). They alleged improper use and violation of the 2005 Zoning Regulations for Residential Areas of Islamabad (Building Control) and the CDA Ordinance, 1960.
Apart from them, several restaurants, shops, beauty institutes and think tanks contested the actions of the CDA. The authority has issued notices to these entities due to the commercial use of residential properties.
The owners said the authority had issued notices without mentioning the precise nature of the violation and threatened to demolish their premises.
Their lawyer, Mohammad Akram Sheikh, said that the applicants, being individuals, provided bed and breakfast in different areas.
“The notice does not indicate what is considered improper use,” he said. Sheikh added that if the petitioners did not stop their activities, the premises would be sealed and heavy fines would be imposed. He said the petitioners’ case was limited to the use of a residential building as a guest house offering guest rooms. He reiterated that they had not used the property for any other purpose.
He added that hosting paying guests in a residential building was a legal activity and not an offense. Therefore, it cannot be considered as improper use. The petitioners said residential buildings were not even defined in the 1960 CDA ordinance, although the word “building” has a broad meaning.
They also argued that CDA’s actions were contrary to public policy and certainly not beneficial to the general population.
Since 2001, just over 2,000 owners have been carrying out commercial or non-conforming activities on their respective premises. When the CDA began its crackdown, they obtained a stay order from the court.
In June 2014, IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui quashed all stay orders and ordered the CDA to execute its writ. Later in January 2015, the IHC empowered the civic body to complete the process of evicting commercial outlets from residential areas. However, no action could be taken as the case had reached the Supreme Court.
In October 2015, the Supreme Court converted the petitions into an appeal, set aside the impugned judgment and referred the cases back to the High Court for a new decision after reviewing all relevant provisions of the regulation and order.
Posted in L’Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2016.