CDA to seal houses being used for commercial purposes

ISLAMABAD, Oct 19: After a decade’s worth of inaction against non-conforming use of buildings in residential sectors, the local civic agency hopes that its new policy to seal houses will bring an end to violations.

According to the draft drawn up, the civic agency would be authorised to seal houses at a notice of 24 to 48 hours, Dawn has learnt reliably.

Commenting on the development, member planning Syed Mustafain Kazmi insisted that policy change is the need of the hour.

“We are serious in implementing Capital Development Authority (CDA) regulations and have instructions from the highest offices of the federal government,” claimed Mr Kazmi while talking to Dawn. “We want to send a clear message to all citizens to refrain from such violations, and action will be seen by the people in a few days’ time,” he added.

He insisted: “After a notice period of 24 hours to 48 hours, the building will be sealed for further legal action.”

Under the current CDA building regulations, the deputy commissioner of CDA is empowered to seal residential premises being used for business purposes and can impose a fine between Rs500,000 and Rs5,000 on a daily basis in case of continuous violation.

“The office of the deputy commissioner CDA is only working as a post office and issues notices to the violators whereas the fines are also not collected in time. There is a lot of political meddling as well,” said a legal wing official.

He added that successive regimes remained subservient to political influence whenever any action was taken against a posh restaurant, eateries or elite educational schools and colleges chains located in residential sectors.

Another official of the CDA seconded this and told Dawn that over 1,200 units in residential areas are being used to run businesses, including educational institutes.

“On the other hand, in the last 10 years, the CDA has sealed only nine properties for building bylaw violations which speaks volumes about the authority’s efficiency for implementing its own rules,” the official commented.

Hence, there is a lot of scepticism about the CDA’s ability to implement its new policy.

The CDA official claimed that the legal wing, building control section and enforcement division were working hand in glove and shared equal responsibility for mushroom growth of commercial units in the residential areas.

“In 2009, we conducted a house to house survey, and identified 839 units that were being used for commercial purposes.

Similarly, in 2011, we identified 280 educational institutions that were based in residential units, but were unable to take any action till September this year,” the official shared.

A senior lawyer at Islamabad High Court Obaid Abbasi, while commenting on the matter, said: “CDA’s legal wing has always remained dormant and hardly follows cases related to non-conforming use of residential units in court of law.”He said that CDA’s legal wing followed collusive litigation and had lost a number of cases in the court.

The legal expert said that article 25 of the constitution clearly states that “all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of law”.

Mr Abbasi said: “The action should be based on merit against the non-conforming building users and every property which is used for commercial purposes in residential units should be dealt on merit.”