The Islamabad High Court on Friday ordered housing societies located outside the capital but registered in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) to stop using the capital’s name.
“The Societies shall rename their projects so as to dispel any impression that they are situated within the limits of ICT. The purpose can be achieved by renaming the housing scheme/project under execution,” stated the order issued by Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir while hearing a writ petition against the cancellation of registration of 18 housing societies on orders of the Islamabad deputy commissioner.
It also ordered the registrar to have advertisements published in national and international newspapers – at the expense of the housing societies – to clarify that these societies were not located in Islamabad. “Enlarged copies of the advertisement shall be permanently displayed at visible places within and outside the main registered and site offices of the Societies for awareness of the general public,” it said.
The petition had challenged a September 23, 20222, order of the registrar of the Corporate Societies circle of the ICT. The order cited Section 47 of the Cooperative Societies Act, 1925, to cancel their registration.
The state counsel, Zainul Abideen Qureshi, told the court that the societies had not provided any revenue record of land acquisition within the limits of ICT and initiated projects.
“The government of Punjab has banned registration of housing societies in Punjab, therefore, the (housing) societies have merely gotten registration from Islamabad and launched projects in Punjab,” he said. He also cited violations of the Multi-Unit Cooperative Societies Act, 1942.
Meanwhile, the petitioners’ counsel contended that the registrar had not “fulfilled the pre-requisites contemplated in sections 43 and 44” of the 1925 Act.
The judge noted that the registrar had failed to follow the prescribed procedure while declaring the order to cancel registrations ‘not legally sustainable’ while setting aside the order.
The order also noted that the Cooperative Services Department as well as those heading societies. It noted that only four of the 15 respondents had societies within ICT, with the rest located across the province.
It ordered the registrar to hold an inquiry into whether the housing societies were registered in Islamabad and launched projects in Punjab without acquiring land in Islamabad merely to circumvent the Punjab ban.
The registrar was also directed to ensure whether the housing schemes had furnished the schedule of the proposed development of land, master plan, site plan indicating the availability of the existing public utilities, etc. in the requisite period of one year.
The court instructed him to conduct inquiries in line with the prescribed procedure including coordinating with the relevant department in Punjab to see if the societies had fulfilled legal obligations.
It also directed the registrar to verify from the federal government and relevant ministries that they were running these housing societies as “an impression is being given that the said societies are directly being run, managed and controlled by the government of Pakistan through the concerned ministries/departments/strategic organizations.
“When government employees engage in the real estate business in the shape of launching housing schemes, there exists an implicit conflict of interest between the functions of the department concerned and duties of the said government servants towards ordinary citizens,” the order noted.
The court ordered the registrar to submit its report within two months.
The housing societies in question include the Islamabad Cooperative Housing Society, the Pak PWD Employees Cooperative Housing Society and many others.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th2023.