A SIGN is all that exists at present at the planned site of the new SC registry.—White Star
A SIGN is all that exists at present at the planned site of the new SC registry.—White Star

KARACHI: Despite the passage of around eight months, the construction of a new Supreme Court registry building has not been started, it emerged on Saturday.

The then chief justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, had laid the foundation stone of the project on Dec 11 at the Pakistan Secretariat and it was planned to be completed within three years with an estimated cost of around Rs2 billion.

A chief engineer of the federal public works department (PWD) had stated at the foundation-laying ceremony that the land measuring 6.89 acres had been acquired for the building at the Pakistan Secretariat after demolishing a number of barracks, which housed Customs courts, banking courts and federal services tribunals.

The two-storey building with a basement will have six courtrooms, judges’ chambers, conference rooms and spaces for the Supreme Court Bar Association, public and a masjid, he said and added that the basement would have parking capacity for more than 500 vehicles.

Eight months have passed since the foundation was laid, and the site for construction of a new apex court building in the provincial metropolis has been left abandoned and there is no sign of construction work at the site.

Retired chief justice Saqib Nisar had launched the Rs2bn project last year

When chief engineer of the PWD (South) Ikram-ul-Haq was contacted for his comments, he did not give any specific time to start the project, but stated that a PC-I of the proposed project was being prepared and work would start after its approval from the competent authority.

Apparently the website of the Pakistan Public Works Department has also not been properly updated as most of its officials, who have either retired or been promoted, are still listed in its directory with their previous designations.

One of its former officials, still listed as a serving official at its website, told Dawn that he had retired around three years back and that the PWD website had not been updated since 2013.

Former director general of the PWD Shah Din Sheikh is still listed as the DG with his contact numbers on the website.

The increased legal activities warrant a new and spacious accommodation for the Karachi registry of the Supreme Court since the present building, situated on M.R. Kayani Road, has only three low-capacity courtrooms.

The apex court registry was established in Karachi in October 1957 in a rented wing of the Sindh High Court building. Later, it was moved to a Karachi Development Authority rest house on Stadium Road.

Since there was a growing need to have a suitable building for the registry, the present SC registry building, also known as the old State Bank building, was found appropriate and the provincial authorities had handed over the British-era building to the Supreme Court in May 1995. After repair and renovation works, the apex court registry was shifted to the building in February 1997.

Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had laid the foundation of the State Bank of Pakistan head office in this building in July 1948. The present Supreme Court registry building is among the oldest public buildings in the provincial capital and it was also declared a protected heritage place.

The present SC registry building was originally built during the British Raj during the reign of Queen Victoria and it was meant to house a museum known as Victoria and Albert Museum.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2019