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November 14, 2018

Banigala case: Govt lacks capability, planning, says CJP

Top Story

November 14, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Hearing a suo motu case of illegal constructions in Banigala, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday remarked that the current government lacked capability and planning.

As the hearing went under way, the additional attorney general submitted a report to the bench on the behalf of the Capital Development Authority (CDA). According to the report, a 1960 map of Banigala shows roads in Zone 4. The map was amended in 1992 and 2010 and some private housing societies were granted permission for construction in certain areas of Zone 4. He informed the court that a large green area was still present and could be saved. To this, the chief justice asked, “Do you want to construct roads in this area?”

“The current government does not have any capability or planning,” Justice Nisar remarked. “It is possible that you install underground electricity cables and you will need land for this since a Naya Pakistan is being made,” the top judge added.

Further, Justice Nisar said, “Land is needed for facilities in Banigala. If you want to develop as per a plan, then land will need to be bought and compensation will need to be paid to owners. Fee will also need to be paid for regularisation. If you want to make a new city, then CDA should purchase land.”

At this, a representative of the Survey General of Pakistan informed the court that the CDA and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) owe them Rs3.42 million. The additional attorney general said the CDA had granted approval for payment of dues and the Punjab government also owed some money.

The bench then directed that the amount be paid to the Survey General of Pakistan within a month. Mineral water companies’ case: The same court Tuesday fixed Re1 tax on per litre of mineral water extracted by the companies and directed the federal and provincial governments to notify the tax within two days.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, resumed hearing of the mineral water companies case. On October 30, the chief justice had observed that people were being deceived in the name of mineral water and appealed to the nation to avoid using mineral water.

The chief justice had said that he had stopped using mineral water and appealed to the nation to use pot water (Garhay ka paani) instead. Advocate General Sindh had told the court that the matter was pending with the provincial cabinet and proposed a tax of Re1:50 per litre for the water companies, while Advocate General Punjab Awais Ahmed told the courtthat the provincial government had proposed imposition of Re1 tax on the water companies.

Advocate General Balochistan had also proposed imposition of Rs1 tax on the water companies. Advocate General Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told the court that they had proposed Re1 and 20 paisa per litre for extraction of water.

The court had directed the advocates general of the four provinces to sit together and sort out a uniform mechanism for fixing the rate for extraction of water by the mineral water companies On Tuesday, the federal and four provincial governments submitted their reports. Attorney General for Pakistan and advocates general of all the four provinces appeared before the court.

The court directed all the mineral water companies to pay Re1 tax on per litre water and also directed the federal government and four provinces to notify the tax within two days. Earlier, during the course of hearing, the chief justice admonished the mineral water companies for extracting billions of rupees worth of groundwater without paying tax.

Justice Nisar said court would not allow the country’s water resources to be polluted and depleted “even if the companies have to shut down”. “This is no longer [only] about taxes — this [issue] has turned into a scandal,” the top judge addressed a representative from one of the mineral water companies.

The CJP said it should not be called ‘mineral’ water but ‘bottled’ water, adding that billions of rupees’ worth of groundwater had been extracted [by these companies]. Who will account for this?” the chief justice questioned.

Environmental expert Professor Dr Ahsan Siddiqui informed the court that the mineral water companies in question did not even possess equipment to check water quality, and they had also not obtained any certificate from any environmental organisation.

He further informed the court that a single plant of a company extracted approximately 0.1 million litres of water per hour. The groundwater level has receded from 100ft to 400ft, he added.

Meanwhile, the DG Environment informed the apex court that none of mineral water companies had been paying even a single rupee to the government. The court was further informed that wastewater was released back into the ground thus further polluting the groundwater.

Bank fraud case: Hearing a bank fraud case, a two-member bench of Supreme Court, headed by Justice Azmat Saeed, Tuesday remarked that the National Accountability Court (NAB) should either arrest all the accused facing different cases or set them free.

Justice Azmat said in seven cases of fraudulent transactions, the bureau had arrested only two accused out of seven. He asked as to who made decisions on arresting and releasing the accused. He further asked as to why the bureau did not keep its both eyes skinned while dealing with cases. The case was adjourned to December 17.