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SC bans conversion of residential plots into commercial ones in Karachi

Updated January 23, 2019

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The ban would also be applicable in cantonment boards; SBCA gets one month to review all ‘illegal’ constructions. — File
The ban would also be applicable in cantonment boards; SBCA gets one month to review all ‘illegal’ constructions. — File

KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday imposed a complete ban on conversion of residential and amenity plots into commercial spaces in Karachi and directed the authorities concerned, including cantonment boards, to review all such conversions allowed by them in the provincial capital.

A two-judge SC bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed also barred the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) from approving multistorey buildings on residential plots as well as amenity spaces and directed it to review the matters of all illegal constructions in the city within one month.

“All constructions which are illegally and unlawfully made in the city of Karachi shall be reviewed by the SBCA within a period of one month and a report in this respect shall be submitted to this court, which should recommend the solution as to how these illegal and unlawful constructed buildings can be demolished and the plot/land put to its original use and how the people, who are occupying such buildings, will be compensated and provided alternate accommodation by SBCA from the funds generated by its own staff,” read the court order.

The ban would also be applicable in cantonment boards; SBCA gets one month to review all ‘illegal’ constructions

Expressing serious concerns with the SBCA for allowing illegal constructions and conversions, the apex court asked a provincial law officer to take instructions from the Sindh government regarding taking over the authority’s functions, including master plan of all cities of the province, and submit its response on the next date of hearing.

The bench also directed the chief secretary to be in attendance on Jan 24 to make a statement in this regard.

During the hearing, SBCA director general Iftikhar Qaimkhani conceded that amenity plots, playgrounds and parks were being allowed to be occupied and converted and used for commercial exploitation.

In a previous hearing, the apex court had directed Mr Qaimkhani to remove and demolish all the illegal constructions including marriage halls, shopping centres, apartments and fuel stations established in Jam Sadiq Ali Park and restore it to its original condition.

However, the bench observed that nothing had been done so far, rather an effort was made to justify the conversion of the park into a commercial plot.

The SBCA chief again stated that he would ensure to restore the park to its original position after removing all encroachments within a period of four weeks.

The bench granted him the required time and asked him to come up with a compliance report.

‘Epidemic’ of wedding halls, shopping centres

Justice Ahmed observed that besides Jam Sadiq Ali Park, there were so many other amenity plots in the city, meant for parks, playgrounds and other amenity uses as per the original master plan, which have also been allowed to be converted into commercial use.

The SBCA chief must take steps to restore all these amenity plots to their original position, Justice Ahmed said.

He further remarked that there seemed to be an epidemic in the city of wedding halls, shopping centres and fuel stations and houses were being allowed to be converted for these purposes.

Besides placing a complete ban on change of residential and amenity plots’ status, the bench asked the master plan department of the SBCA and other authorities concerned of the city to review the allowed conversions and ruled that the ban would be applied across the city including cantonment boards.

Regarding illegal constructions in Lyari, the SBCA DG informed the bench that inquiries against the officials will be finalised in one month. He also ensured the bench that action will also be taken against SBCA officials who played havoc with the city by allowing illegal and unplanned constructions.

His response came against the backdrop of a previous order by the same bench that said: “The cost of relocation of the people occupying such illegal buildings shall be taken from the officials of KBCA which was renamed as SBCA themselves from their emoluments and properties and in this respect the DG shall raise funds and such funds shall include contribution from the DG himself also.

“Further, if these constructions have been carried out during the tenure of any other incumbent official, who has retired or is no more in employment, then after proper notice, recovery from retirement dues and his properties shall be made by the KBCA. The AGPR (accountant general of Pakistan revenue)/Accountant General, Sindh, to be notified accordingly.”

On Tuesday, the court directed the accountant general, Sindh to discuss the issue with the SBCA chief as to how the payment of emoluments to the staff of the SBCA was to be released.

KWSB told to demolish officers’ club

The bench also ordered the managing director of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) to demolish its officers’ club, which is being used as marriage halls, since the plot was meant for amenity purposes.

The apex court further said that the KWSB had built the officers’ club on its land near Sharea Faisal and was running marriage halls on it.

Observing that since the land in question was meant for amenity purposes, construction of a club and allowing wedding functions on such land were not permissible by law. The court ordered the KWSB chief to immediately demolish the club and other constructions.

There should be a public park on the entire land with proper facilities for the public, it concluded.

Following the SC order, the KWSB administration started demolishing its officers’ club and work was under way till late in the evening.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2019