Stop construction of all structures
The High Court yesterday directed the government to take effective steps immediately to stop construction of all kinds of structures on the Cox's Bazar sea beach till further order.
During hearing of a rule, the court ordered the cabinet secretary to set up a high-powered committee to examine whether land of the sea beach can be allocated to any individual or private company on lease agreements.
The cabinet secretary will form the committee comprising the secretaries to the ministries of law, land, and environment, which will probe the allegations of allocating some plots on the beach on lease, the court ordered.
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) chief Col (retd) Oli Ahmed, MP, who is admittedly constructing a residence on the beach, yesterday told the court the then government allocated plots on the beach to five people including him between 2002 and 2004 following execution of separate lease agreements.
Appearing before an HC bench as per one of its summons, Oli said one Khandker Asaduzzaman and one Abul Hasnat Abdul Hye are among the four others, who had been allocated plots on the beach.
The LDP chief admitted that he is constructing a three-bedroom residential building for his own use on a five-katha plot without any permission from the authorities concerned.
He added he has no plan to build any resort on the plot for commercial purpose.
Oli said he has paid money to the government for the plot, praying to the court to direct the government to refund the money in case of cancellation of the lease.
In its order yesterday, the HC said the high-powered committee will investigate whether the government can give any lease of the land on the sea beach to any individual or private company, whether those lease agreements can be cancelled now and whether the damages already caused to the environment due to the allotments of five plots can be replenished.
The HC bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik and Justice Jahangir Hossain Selim ordered the committee to submit the investigation report by June 30 before it and also fixed July 10 for further order on the issue.
The bench, however, exempted Oli from personal appearance before it in connection with the matter.
The court also issued a rule upon the officials concerned to explain why the government should not be directed to cancel the lease agreements of the land on the beach and to explain why the allocation of the land should not be declared illegal and against public interest.
The secretaries to the ministries of cabinet, land, law, environment, civil aviation and tourism, and home affairs, the director general of the environment department, and the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police of Cox's Bazar have been made respondents to the rule.
Based on a report published in The Daily Star with the headline "Oli's castle on beach," the HC on February 22 issued a suomoto rule and summoned the LDP chief before it yesterday to explain his role in constructing the structure on the beach, an ecologically critical area.
The report stated that Oli Ahmed, without any permission from the authorities concerned, is going to build a four-storey structure in the jhau woods on the beach that is a violation of environmental laws.
The site falls in the ecologically critical area (ECA), where any type of construction is prohibited by the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995 (Amendment 2010), according to the report.
Supreme Court lawyers Manzill Murshid, Iqbal Kabir Lytton, and Deputy Attorney General ABM Altaf Hossain placed the report to draw the attention of the judges for necessary order that day.
Oli's counsel Moudud Ahmed yesterday told the court the reports published in The Daily Star on February 22 and 23 did not reflect the whole truth upon which the HC issued the rule.
Moudud also said his client had sent a rejoinder to The Daily Star against its two reports on the issue, but the newspaper published a small part of the rejoinder.
Moudud, however, did not place the rejoinder and replies made by The Daily Star before the court.
The court instantly asked The Daily Star correspondent, who was on duty on the court premises, to appear before it for an explanation on the allegations made by Moudud.
The correspondent told the court The Daily Star on March 2 published the rejoinder, which was sent by Oli Ahmed through his attorney, in detail with its reply and clarification.
The Daily Star reports, which were contested by Oli Ahmed, were fully correct, except an editing error.
Instead of saying a four-storey building was being constructed, the report published on February 23 stated a four-storey building had already been constructed, he said.
He added The Daily Star on March 2 said in the reply that "This was an editing error and we stand corrected."
The court asked the correspondent to place an issue of The Daily Star published on March 2 containing the rejoinder and the reply before it later.
Additional Attorney General MK Rahman and Advocate Iqbal Kabir Lytton argued before the court.