KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday directed a Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) official to place on record the project file on which the initial environmental assessment (IEE) report was issued for the construction of a flyover and two underpasses in Clifton.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar, who headed a single bench of the SHC, gave this direction while hearing two lawsuits against a traffic improvement project allegedly being built without complying with the mandatory requirements of environmental protection laws and approval from the authorities concerned.

The judge directed Ashiq Ali Langah, Sepa’s director for IEE, to remain present at every hearing until he was exempted from personal appearance.

The court also asked him to bring along the project file on which the IEE report was issued.

The hearing of the case was adjourned till April 24.

A lawsuit was filed by the Pakistan Defence Officers Housing Authority seeking injunction against the project. The counsel for the plaintiff submitted before the judge that the Bahria Town had launched a project titled Bahria Town Icon Tower near the shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Clifton.

It had also undertaken a project grade separated improvement plan from the Park Tower intersection to the A.T. Naqvi roundabout comprising a flyover in front of Park Tower in Clifton and two underpasses near Kothari Parade as part of the Bahria Town Icon Tower project.

He said the impugned project, which was being financed and executed by the Bahria Town at an estimated cost of Rs1.8 billion, required an environmental impact assessment (EIA). He added that only an IEE had been submitted for the project. The issuance of the IEE by Sepa was contrary to the law and such an approval could not permit the impugned project to continue, he argued.

While defending the impugned project in Clifton, the counsel for Bahria Town informed the court that the project being executed in the public interest would not cause any adverse impact on the environment. The counsel for the firm, Akhtar Hussian, said that Sepa had provided the requisite approval for the construction of the project strictly following environmental laws.

There was no adverse environmental impact of the project, which was being constructed on the existing road. Therefore, the IEE approval for the project and its construction was in accordance with the law, he added.

Temple case

Meanwhile, the bench directed the counsel for the Cantonment Board Clifton and the Bahria Town to submit comments on the lawsuit against the project which is said to have posed a serious threat to the structure of a 150-year-old temple in Clifton.

Vikash Kumar had filed a lawsuit stating that there was unrest in the Hindu community over the construction of the project that had posed a serious threat to the foundation of the 150-year-old Shri Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple.

Ground vibrations from excavation for the flyover were close to the temple and could cause the The temple is protected under the Sindh Heritage Act 1994, therefore, no construction work in or around it could be carried out, the petitioner argued.

He requested the court to restrain the real estate concern from continuing the construction of the flyover and underpasses.

Murder case

A division bench of the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday directed the head of Surjani Town police station to appear before it in a petition against the paramilitary force of Rangers for allegedly killing a citizen in a fake encounter.

The bench, headed by Justice Ahmed Ali M. Sheikh, was seized with the hearing of a petition filed by Sardar Jan who sought court directives to the home secretary, the Rangers, director general, the wing commander of the Abdullah Shah Ghazi Rangers and police officials for holding a transparent inquiry into the killing of her son, Shah Farman, in an encounter on March 4.

The petitioner submitted that Rangers officials conducted a targeted operation in her area, Patel Para New Town and took away 11 persons including her son from their home on Jan 29, 2013. Later, the paramilitary force released all but her son was not released, she added.

She told the judges that she approached wing commander Abdullah Shah Ghazi Rangers and other police officials concerned but all in vain as they did not disclose any information about her son.

She said she visited police officials concerned time and again to seek whereabouts of her son but all the time they assured her that they would get her son released.

Later, she learnt through media reports that her son was killed in an encounter by the Rangers on March 4, she said, adding that three FIRs were later registered against her son allegedly to cover the illegal act of the paramilitary force.

She said that the law-enforcement agencies without any justification carried out enforced disappearance and declared them suspected in the various crimes. She asked the court to direct the law-enforcement agencies to submit before the court the entire record about the encounter and involvement of her son in the cases and also order action against them.

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