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Court suspends AJK govt’s notification

Court suspends AJK govt’s notification

MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) High Court on Friday suspended a notification in which the AJK government had constituted a committee to evaluate the granting of ownership rights to the occupants of an official residential colony in Mirpur.

Justice Chaudhry Jehandad Khan, granted interim relief until the next date of hearing on August 18 on a petition filed by Advocate Khalid Rasheed Chaudhry, on behalf of four non-gazetted employees of AJK Electricity Department.

According to the petition, a residential colony called Staff Colony established for low scale government employees some five decades ago. In addition to government servants, some of the houses in the colony were allegedly under the possession of unauthorised people, despite attempts in the past to evict them.

The petitioners alleged that while campaigning for by-elections in March 2015, Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul offered propriety rights to the residents of Staff Colony “in return for their votes for the ruling PPP candidate”.

On June 9, the cabinet decided to constitute a committee to evaluate the prime minister’s offer and subsequently a notification was issued on June 25 regarding a six-member committee, headed by finance minister Chaudhry Latif Akbar.

The June 25 notification, the petitioners said, was in contravention with the constitution which guarantees equal treatment to all State Subjects (a term for bona-fide residents of the State of Jammu and Kashmir) as a fundamental right.

Since the petitioners were State Subjects and also junior grade employees, they were also entitled to residence at the Staff Colony. However, no accommodation was provided to them. Rather, the respondents in connivance with each other had decided to grant ownership rights to the residents as a “political bribe,” they contended.

“The granting of propriety rights in this case is not only unwarranted by law and morality but would also cause great loss to the exchequer, in addition to setting precedents for residents of all other official colonies and houses,” counsel for the petitioners pleaded before the court.

He asserted that the impugned notification was an example of sheer discrimination for the reason that while many government employees were still without official accommodation, some of their colleagues were not only enjoying official accommodation but also trying to gain ownership.

On Friday, neither the respondents – AJK government nor others - appeared before the court nor filed comments and objections against the application for interim relief although they had been served notices to this effect two days ago.

The judge held that in view of the overall circumstances of the case, irreparable loss was likely to be caused to the petitioners and therefore the operation of the impugned notification would remain suspended and status quo would continue until the next date of hearing on August 18, subject to objections from the other side.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2015

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