The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday directed the government to immediately stop acquisition of land at the hills and hillocks of Jhilongja Mouja in Cox's Bazar over a residential project for officials and staff of Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB).
A four-member bench of the Appellate Division of the SC headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain passed the order after hearing a leave to appeal petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) against a High Court order.
The apex court also allowed Bela to move an appeal before it, challenging the HC directive.
Following a writ petition, the HC on April 5 last year directed the Department of Environment (DoE) to examine through a committee the construction of structures in the acquisitioned area and to ensure that hills and hillocks are not cut.
The HC also ruled that DoE can allow construction of structures in the area in accordance with relevant laws and subject to approval from a high-powered committee on the environmental impact assessment if it (DoE) feels the construction is indispensable for the national interest.
Bela recently filed the leave to appeal petition against the HC order saying that hills or hillocks are on 3.98 acres of land out of total 4 acres proposed for acquisition in Jhilongja Mouja.
The respondents of the SC directive are secretaries to the ministries of land and forests and environment; director general of DoE; chairman of BPDB; deputy commissioner and superintendent of police in Cox's Bazar; upazila nirbahi officer of Cox's Bazar sadar; its executive engineer of power distribution department; assistant director of DoE in Cox's Bazar; mayor of Cox's Bazar municipality; its assistant commissioner (land); land acquisition of Cox's Bazar sadar; Jamal Uddin Khan of Bakshir Ghatichhora under Mathbaria upazila in Pirojpur; and Ziaul Haider Hashmi of Khalishatola Sun Uddin Haji Bari in Noakhali -- who were given power of attorney on behalf of the owners of the land to be acquisitioned, a Bela press release said.
Barrister Fida M Kamal, Advocate AM Aminuddin and Advocate Syeda Rizwana Hasan appeared for Bela while Advocate Mahbubey Alam argued for the respondents.