Murree encroachments to be removed on SC orders

The apex court on Monday directed that all illegal buildings constructed in Murree should be demolished within five days.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, gave the order while hearing a suo moto case on illegal buildings constructed in the hill station.

The court further directed the Rawalpindi deputy commissioner (DC) Talat Mehmood Gondal to use heavy machinery, including bulldozers  to raze the illegal construction, warning that should the officer fail to do so, he should be ready to face the consequences. 

During Monday’s hearing, Chief Justice Nisar also questioned the DC about who owns the illegally built buildings, and who is responsible for building illegal constructions and whether any illegal structures were built in Murree.

Gondal told the court that illegal buildings have existed in Murree since 2003.

At this SC directed him to submit details of all illegally built structures along with his affidavit.

“If there is any other case [over illegal buildings] in the courts, then provide details of that too, and rent a bulldozer and demolish the illegal structures in Murree within five days,” Justice Nisar stated.

“Go to Murree and make a public announcement and tell the people that anyone who wants, is free to come to the court [to object against the demolition], otherwise these illegal structures will be demolished or you will fall.”

The chief justice further remarked that he had seen a visible increase in the number of buildings in the hill station.

“I saw Murree’s Mall Road in my youth, as well as when I grew older. Submit a list of the people under whom these illegal structures appeared. These structures have appeared with support from your institution. Do not hide illegal buildings due to political reasons,” the chief justice told the Rawalpindi DC.

“If the inspection team identifies any illegal building, then there will be consequences. You have to prove that the country is run by rule of law,” he remarked.

The apex court had also taken suo motu notice of illegal structures in the federal capital including wedding halls and marquees. The court directed the Capital Development Authority (CDA) submit a list of all the illegal structures in the federal capital. The case was subsequently adjourned until today (Tuesday).

Earlier, the Punjab Local Government and Community Development (LG&CD) secretary submitted a report on illegal constructions in Murree.

The report stated that there are different departments which cover construction in the hill station.

In this regard, the Punjab government said that the forests department — which owns the most land in the hill station —administers a large part of the area, including any encroachment on forest land.

The National Highway Authority (NHA) developed the Islamabad-Murree Expressway and maintains it. The Murree Improvement Trust is another institution which has its own administrative set-up and works under the Housing Urban Unit and Public Health Engineering Department.

Moreover, the Punjab government has its own master plan, allotting plots and approving plans as per by-laws.

The Murree Cantonment area functions under the administrative control of the military and has their own set of by-laws to regulate the construction of buildings.

The report added that the Punjab government had tried to preserve the beauty of the Murree Hills evidenced by the slew of bans imposed.

The LG&CD Department secretary further explained that the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013, expressly assigns the function of building control and regulation to the Municipal Corporation.

A report of building plans dealt by the defunct Town Municipal Administration (TMA) Murree  (now Municipal Corporation of Murree) from 2007 to 2018 was also submitted.

The Express Tribune

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