SC Cancels Lease Of All Restaurants Operating In Margalla Hills

Monal assures three-judge bench of the top court that it will relocate from the national park within three months

SC Cancels Lease Of All Restaurants Operating In Margalla Hills

The top court on Tuesday cancelled the lease given to, and directed all restaurants operating in the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) to close down. Popular eatery which operates in the park, Monal, assured the court that it will relocate from its iconic location within three months.

This order was issued by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Tuesday as it took up the case regarding illegal encroachments in MHNP. Monal Restaurant had filed a petition in the top court challenging a verdict issued by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against encroachment in the park by restaurants and hotels.

At the last hearing of the case on March 8, the top court had ordered to de-seal the restaurant while it suspended a verdict by the IHC. The top court had also asked the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to submit records about the 8,600 acres of the MHNP.

During Tuesday's hearing, the top court rejected CDA's report and summoned the authority's chairman. Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa observed that the court had sought details from the CDA regarding Monal and other restaurants operating in the national park. The counsel representing CDA informed the bench that a report containing all the relevant details on the construction taking place in MHNP has been submitted.

However, CJP Isa said that the CDA's report also lists a sports club, the Pak-China Friendship Centre, and the national monument as falling within the park's remit.

"Is this CDA's honesty?" he further questioned.

He further asked whether the top court's building also falls within the limits of the national park.

At this, CDA's counsel responded that they would have to check the map before responding.

During the hearing, the chief justice further observed that the world knows how many restaurants there are [inside the national park], and asked whether CDA's office was also located within the remits of the national park.

Referring to the recent string of fires, the top judge asked how many times the Margalla Hills have caught fire. 

The CDA chairman informed the court that the hills have caught fire 21 times so far this year. He further informed the court that the authority intends to plant trees in the park during the upcoming monsoon season. 

During the hearing, the court observed that its aim is to protect the national park and added that it was only focusing on it.

"All the leases granted to restaurants located in the national park are declared null and void," the court stated.

CJP Isa further expressed that all commercial activities taking place inside the national park within the territory of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should also be halted.

The Supreme Court said it will issue a written order in the Monal restaurant case later.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain