Court rules against local conglomerate in govt land plot seizure

JP Leader Qasim Ibrahim PHOTO:Parliament

JP Leader Qasim Ibrahim. PHOTO:Parliament

The High Court on Tuesday ruled that a land plot in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale, which was awarded to local conglomerate Villa Group, was seized by the government lawfully, overturning the lower court’s verdict which had been in favour of Villa.

This is the second such verdict in a series of cases against Villa, which is owned by opposition Jumhoory Party’s leader Qasim Ibrahim. The state had awarded land plots in Hulhumale to Villa in 2005 for industrial purposes and later took some of the plots back in 2015 over Villa’s failure to commence development.

Villa had filed lawsuits to regain the plots. The High Court had closed one such case against Villa last month, followed by the second such verdict on Tuesday.

The Hulhumale Court had ruled in favour of Villa in the second case, which was then appealed by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). The appeal court’s verdict read that the agreement mandated Villa to commence industrial work in the land plot. Whereas the contract did not specify a certain deadline to commence development, the High Court’s verdict deemed that the decade spanning 2005-2015 was a sufficient period of time to launch the work which Villa had failed to accomplish.

The verdict, which was reached unanimously by the three judges on the bench, also stated that HDC holds the authority to demand improvement and progress from the contractor, and that the corporation may terminate the contract without prior notice.

The High Court is currently looking into more appeals of cases that Hulhumale Court had ruled in favour of Villa over seized land plots.

The government had also taken back some islands in 2015 that were awarded to Villa for resort development. The state had appealed all the cases the lower court ruled in favour of Villa, all of which were ultimately overturned by the High Court.

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