The SC orders the Dadhocha Dam land compensation to be revised

The SC orders the Dadhocha Dam land compensation to be revised

ISLAMABAD: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court directed the commissioner in Rawalpindi to reassess the compensation following an evaluation of the market value of the land purchased for the much-needed Dadhocha Dam.

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However, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah noted in a judgement he made that both the preliminary notification from November 2, 2010, and the addendum notification from March 12, 2020, are legal and will continue to be in effect.

Justice Shah was a member of the three-judge Supreme Court bench that heard the appeal of the commissioner of Rawalpindi against the February 2, 2021 Lahore High Court order that had invalidated the notifications issued for the acquisition of respondents’ land. The other two judges on the bench were Justice Ayesha A. Malik and Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial.

The order stated that additional factors prescribed by law for determining compensation, such as the potential value of the land and the increase in land prices from the date of publication of the addendum notification to the date of announcing the new award, “shall also be considered and taken into account” when determining compensation and making the announcement of the new award.

Court order states that notifications sent in 2010 and 2020 are still valid and in effect.

The argument centred on a request for land acquisition in the district of Rawalpindi for the construction of the Dadhocha Dam made by the executive engineer of the Small Dams Division, Islamabad.

The District Price Assessment Committee (DPAC) approved the estimated cost of the land to be acquired by fixing the market value of the land to be between Rs60,000 and Rs100,000 at its meeting held on September 17, 2011, following the issuance of a preliminary notification under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 (Act) on November 2, 2010, which was published in the official Gazette on November 3, 2010.

But until the issuance of an addendum to the preliminary notification on March 12, 2020, which was published in the official Gazette on March 13, 2020, the petitioners did not take any further action in relation to the acquisition. As a result, the amount of land to be acquired was increased from 7,977 kanals, 10 marlas to 14,720 kanals, 17 marlas (addendum notification).

On March 20, 2020, DPAC met once more to discuss the cost of the land, and it accepted the same valuation that it had done so in 2011. A notification was subsequently issued on April 21, 2020, under Sections 17(4) and 6 of the Act, and it was published in the official Gazette on April 24, 2020. In this notification, urgency was declared in order to speed up the land acquisition process, and Sections 5 and 5-A of the Act were deemed to be inapplicable.

The respondents contested the purchase process, but an award was made on August 13, 2020, based on the same land assessment that DPAC established in 2011 and approved in 2020.

The impugned judgement by the LHC upheld the writ petitions and threw out the notifications, but gave the petitioners free rein to reopen the land acquisition process for the dam’s construction by issuing a new notification in accordance with Section 4 of the Act.

The Punjab government was contacted by the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) with a request to move the site for the construction of the dam about six kilometres upstream following the issuance of the preliminary notification, according to former additional advocate general Barrister Qasim Chohan, who testified in court during the hearing.

The Punjab government then appointed a committee on February 4, 2011, to review the issue, and the committee suggested the dam’s original location.

Another group, which had previously recommended the original site for the construction of the dam, was committed to making a new recommendation. The Supreme Court eventually heard the case after that.

The Supreme Court came to the opposite conclusion, finding that although the preliminary notification, addendum notification, and urgency notification were all legally properly given, the award was not made in compliance with the law.

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