KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday issued notices to the religious affairs secretary, chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and others on a petition against leasing out a gurdwara in Mirpurkhas to a private person.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi issued notices to the respondents as well as to the federal and provincial law officers for Sept 18 to file comments.

Petitioner Roop Mala Singh, who is associated with the Pakistan Hindu Council, submitted that a historical gurdwara building, situated at M.A. Jinnah Road in Mirpurkhas, was illegally and unconstitutionally leased out to Nizamuddin for 30 years.

Murad’s brother-in-law got lucrative posting despite making voluntary return deal with NAB

Impleading the religious affairs secretary, ETPB chairman, administrator and deputy administrator of the ETPB concerned, sub-registrar and mukhtiarkar of Mirpurkhas and private person Nizamuddin as respondents, the petitioner stated that the official respondents had leased out the property in question, measuring 1,034 square yards, to a private respondent against an amount of only Rs2 million without following statutory requirements and against the settled principles of law as well as an injustice to the minorities.

She further submitted that the gurdwara was not only a sacred religious place for pilgrims but also a historical architectural monument of its times, which had never been a property of the officials respondents since no effective measures had been taken for protection and preservation of the building.

The petitioner said that the official respondents handed over the physical possession of the gurdwara to the private respondent for commercial purposes in violation of Article 20 of the Constitution.

She asked the court to declare the lease illegal, bar the respondents from demolishing the gurdwara and issue directives for its preservation and protection.

SHC assured of action against ‘corrupt’ officials

The Sindh chief secretary on Tuesday filed an undertaking in the SHC regarding action taken against the officers who entered into a voluntary return agreement with the National Accountability Bureau in corruption cases.

The chief secretary said that the action had been taken against 75 officials and the cases of senior officials had been sent to the federal authorities.

When the two-judge SHC bench headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro asked about Mehdi Ali Shah, who was appointed the workers welfare board secretary after awarding minimum punishment for voluntary return, an additional advocate general conceded that Mr Shah was a brother-in-law of the outgoing Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

However, the law officer claimed that regardless of the fact that he was a relative of the CM, action was taken against him as per law.

The bench observed that it appeared to be a discrimination since Mr Shah got a lesser punishment, but actions against other officials were different despite identical allegations.

The law officer submitted that the matter was pending before the apex court and they could not take any major action against them till a final order.

The court directed the chief secretary to file an application for urgent hearing of these cases before the apex court and adjourned the hearing till June 6.

During the hearing of a case pertaining to the reinstatement of Thatta’s district account officer Ghulam Mustafa Loond after he voluntarily returned Rs200 million, the SHC had last year directed the provincial authorities to immediately remove all the officers reinstated in different departments after they entered into plea bargains and had observed that the plea bargain or voluntary return of embezzled money was itself a confession by the accused person.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2018

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