On August 14, 2004, BELA filed a writ petition (No. 4604 of 2004) challenging the legality of project of Metro Makers Ltd. called Modhumoti Model Town that was filling up 550 acres of the sub-flood flow zone near Amin Bazar, Savar ignoring laws (the flood flow zone/ sub flood flow zone as identified in SPZ 17 comprises mouza Bilamalia and Baliarpur under Savar Police Station. The area is located on the south of Dhaka-Aricha Road and is at the west of the Amin Bazar bridge). Metro Makers continued land filling and selling of plots despite RAJUK’s repeated cautionary notice.
On 15 August, 2004 a division bench of the High Court comprising Mr. Justice Md. Abdul Wahab Miah and Zinat Ara issued injunction for six months against Metro Makers Ltd. preventing them from further earth filling or undertaking any other activity for implementing the Project including advertisements to sell plots in Modhumoti Model Town. The Court also issued rule asking the government agencies to show cause as to why they should not be directed to protect the sub-flood flow zone being filled up by Modhumoti and also why the said project of Modhumoti having no authorization from RAJUK and being violative of applicable laws shall not be declared unlawful.
The BELA case was disposed of on 27 July, 2005 and the rule was made absolute in part. On the issue of legality of the project the court categorically held that the project of Modhumoti Model Town being undertaken in violation of the Town Improvement Act and the Master Plan prepared thereunder, the Environment Conservation Act and the Act No. 36 of 2000 and without having obtained any permission from RAJUK, the same is unauthorized, illegal, without lawful authority and against public interest.
The Court directed RAJUK to protect the sub flood flow zone of Savar Amin Bazar from illegal earth filling by the Metro makers and also directed Metro makers to refrain from undertaking any further earth filling in the said sub–flood flow zone.
The Court, however, directed that since people have already purchased plots, the third party interest of the buyers shall not be affected by this order.
Both BELA and Metro Makers preferred appeals against the judgment of the high Court. Some buyers also preferred appeals. BELA pleaded that third party right cannot be recognized in a project that is declared illegal. On the other hand, Metro Makers and their identified buyers preferred appeals pleading legality of the Modhumoti Model Town project and recognition of purchaser’s right.
The full bench of the Appellate Division (AD) disposed of all the appeals on 07 August, 2012 by a single order. The AD allowed BELA’s appeal and dismissed all the other appeals of Metro Makers and the identified buyers. This implies that the project Modhumoti Model Town is an illegal one and the same has not been legalized on the plea of protecting the buyers.
Mr. Mahmudul Islam, former Attorney General appeared for BELA. Mr. Azmumul Hossain Q.C appeared for Metro Makers while Mr. Rokonuddin Mahmood, bar-at-law; Mr. Rafiqul Haque, bar-at-law; Advocate Abdul Matin Khashru, former Law Minister appeared amongst others for the identified buyers.
The verdict of the AD is a huge victory of the campaign of the environmentalists against filling up of wetlands and land grabbing by the housing companies for their unauthorized projects. It is a clear signal that deviation from the Master Plan and purported authorization of the same shall have the same consequences in future of being declared illegal and against public interest. It will also raise awareness amongst the buyers not to invest in unauthorized projects that deviate from the Master Plan and the DAP.