The Appellate Division of the apex court dismissed a petition to review the 2016 verdict in a hearing on Sunday, saying the building was built illegally and therefore must be pulled down.
The 15-storey building, headquarters of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), stands on a crucial spot in Dhaka and blocks the connection between the two large water bodies in the city – Hatirjheel lake and Begunbari canal.
The court has also ordered the BGMEA to inform it in a petition by Thursday as to how long it would take to demolish the building.
The court will hold a hearing on that petition on the same day.
Barrister Imtiaz Moinul Islam, counsel for the BGMEA, said they would seek three years’ time to implement the court’s order.
In June 2016, the Appellate Division upheld the High Court’s verdict ordering the demolition of the structure when the BGMEA appealed against it.
The High Court had issued the verdict in 2010, following its suo moto ruling based on a new report on the issue.
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The BGMEA Complex was constructed illegally in Hatirjheel, Dhaka and blocks the water flow between two large waterbodies in Dhaka – Hatirjheel lake and Begunbari canal RAJIB DHAR
The High Court found the building illegal as it was constructed violating the law protecting the country’s wetlands. When the Appellate Division upheld the High Court order last year, the BGMEA filed a petition to review the verdict.
The verdict, the full text of which was released by the Supreme Court on November 8 last year, also asked the BGMEA to bear the cost of the demolition. Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), the development authority in Dhaka, was asked to demolish the building after 90 days from the verdict publication date.
The court also observed that the building was constructed without taking environment clearance certificate. In addition, the site clearance was obtained for an industrial building, which the BGMEA Complex is not.
Moreover, anomalies were found regarding the ownership of the land the building stands on.
According to the High Court verdict in 2010, the BGMEA told the court that the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) had handed the land over to the organisation in 2001, when government records show that the EPB had received the land’s possession from Bangladesh Railway in 2006.
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In addition, the deed between the EPB and the BGMEA, in line with government records and the Dhaka Wasa’s Master Plan of Dhaka City, stated that the Begunbari canal and Hatirjheel lake are natural water bodies.
According to the Natural Water Reservoir Conservation Act 2000, a water body cannot be changed, nor can it be used in any manner or purpose. It cannot be leased out, rented or transferred to anybody, and nobody can claim any compensation if illegal construction or obstruction built on it is demolished.
The water bodies are connected with the Buriganga River through canals and play a pivotal role in keeping the capital city safe from waterlogging and monsoon flooding.
The Supreme Court verdict said to protect the water bodies from grabbers, the government took up a huge Hatirjheel-Begunbari development project with a cost of more than Tk1,480 crore.
But the BGMEA joined the land grabbers and accordingly managed to get permission from the government as well as from Rajuk to build its 15-storey office complex on the said water bodies.
The BGMEA constructed the building in defiance of the law, thereby depriving the Dhaka residents from enjoying the facilities provided by the development project, said the court.
The apex court also maintained the High Court’s order that said the money invested by the BGMEA in the construction of the building can never be the grounds to allow it to keep the building.
It also directed the BGMEA to return the money to those who bought floor spaces in the building – as those transactions stand vitiated – within 12 months from the date the compensation claims are made.
However, the floor space owners cannot claim interest on the original price that they paid, because the court finds them guilty of contributory negligence as they had the knowledge of the illegality of the building’s construction, the court said.