Raja Zahoor Ahmed v Capital Development Authority
Jurisdiction: Supreme Court
Principle law(s): National Climate Change Policy
Side A: Raja Zahoor Ahmed and others (Individual)
Side B: Capital Development Authority (Government)
Core objectives: How climate change considerations should be taken into account within urban planning decisions
SummaryOn 5th October 1995 the Capital development Authority, which is responsible for planning decisions in Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad, rescinded a previous decision to allow a number of residential properties to be converted to commercial use. It determined that the original decision would have been incompatible with the Master Plan of Islamabad. After rescinding the decision to allow commercial use of the properties, the Board issued notices to a number of property owners regarding their unsanctioned use of residential properties for commercial use. These notices were challenged by the petitioners and on 16th February 2015 the Islamabad High Court dismissed the petitions. The case was subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court.
On 20th May 2022 the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued a judgment in the case confirming the consolidated judgment of the Islamabad High Court. The Court found that the Capital Development Authority had been correct to determine that the original authorization for the conversion of the properties had been unlawful as it was not aligned with the Master Plan of Islamabad, and any deviation from that plan would have required approval by the Federal Government. The Court then went on to provide an explanation of the importance of orderly urban planning in the context of climate change. In particular the Court noted that future changes to existing urban plans would need to take climate change into account: "It is doubtful that our early town planners were driven by climate considerations. However, climate must, in the wake of climate change, form a basic determinant of urban planning and design. Climate-resilient development in cities of all sizes is crucial for improving the well-being of people and increasing the life opportunities of future generations. Any change in the Master Plan to an urban scheme without taking account of the climate factor would be detrimental."
The Court went on to note that climate change can impact a number of fundamental constitutional rights, including the fundamental rights to life, dignity and property guaranteed under Articles 9, 14, 18 and 23 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973. The Court argued that including adaptation and sustainability considerations in urban planning is essential for the protection of these rights and ordered that Pakistan's urban planning authorities should take this into account in future, stating: "The CDA shall ensure to factor in adaptation, climate resiliency and sustainability into their plans, policies and decisions in order to protect [...] constitutional rights."
Related laws and policies
National Climate Change Policy
The Policy identifies vulnerabilities to climate change in the sectors of water resources, agriculture, forestry, coastal areas, biodiversity and vulnerable ecosystems and spells out the appropriate adaptation measures to be adopted. It also puts forward appropriate measures concerning disaster p...