KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down hard on Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) authorities for leasing out its land to private persons to build high-rises and failing to remove encroachments and issued notice to the top law officer of the federal government.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed observed that the cantonment land could not be used to raise private buildings and there was categorization of such land, which needed to be examined.
It asked the attorney general to assist it.
The chief justice said that no progress had been made to comply with its earlier order to remove encroachments from the land owned by the federal authorities and rather more high-rise buildings were being constructed on such land.
Some land in PNT Colony had been given to the Pakistan Navy, but it is being leased out to private persons and they are constructing multistorey buildings on it, the CJP deplored.
The bench expressed serious resentment over the encroachments and high-rise buildings in PNT Colony, which was meant for accommodation of the employees of postal services and telecommunication, and other cantonment land.
Sindh govt ordered to remove encroachments from parks, green belts as well as land of irrigation, forest depts
It directed the federal authorities and CBC to remove the encroachments and file a report in one month.
The chief justice expressed displeasure over the officials of the CBC for not complying with its earlier orders to remove encroachments and unauthorised buildings from PNT Colony and other areas and rather allowed more constructions by private individuals in these areas.
He asked them that under what law they had permitted private persons to carry out construction of multistorey buildings.
245,000 fake entries in Sindh land record
The bench directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan governments to file reports regarding computerization of revenue record in a month as the Sindh Revenue Board (SRB) submitted its report.
When the bench inquired about the report of the KP authorities, an additional attorney general informed it that the first phase of computerization of KP’s revenue record would be completed in February 2021.
In compliance with an order of the apex court passed in 2014 to computerize the land record, SRB’s senior member Qazi Shahid Pervez submitted that the record had been computerized and around 70 million documents were available in the database while every document had its tracking code.
He further submitted that the database could track the record back to 1985.
However, an applicant from district Thatta informed the bench that the record of his land was not available online. Mr Pervez admitted that around 245,000 fake entries had been identified in Sindh’s revenue record.
As far as the record of district Thatta was concerned, he said that the record was scrutinised and also reviewed by the deputy commissioner while around 1,100 entries were under judicial review.
When the chief justice asked him about encroachments and illegal constructions on government land, he replied that they had been launching anti-encroachments drive and so far recovered 1,000 acres of land while action was being taken against 11 officials of the SRB for allowing such encroachments.
While taking the SRB report on record, the bench directed him to ensure that the encroachments on government land including parks, green belts, amenity land and other public spaces as well as the land of irrigation and forest departments must be removed and restore the same to its original position.
It also directed Mr Pervez to supervise the anti-encroachment drive and ask all the commissioners and deputy commissioners as well as the irrigation and forest departments for removal of such encroachments.
The bench asked him to cancel all the fake documents and sought a compliance report in a month.
24 houses built in Kidney Hill Park not demolished
The bench expressed resentment over local administration for filing a faulty report about clearing all the encroachments from the Kidney Hill Park and warned to initiate contempt proceedings against them as an area of 7.3 acres was still encroached upon.
The bench directed the Karachi commissioner to remove the remaining encroachments and houses and submit a compliance report within two weeks.
Amber Alibhai of Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment informed the bench that 24 houses on the premises of the park, leased by the Faran Cooperative Society, had not been demolished yet while four plots were carved out by the Overseas Society, adjacent to the park, after excavation of hill.
The bench also issued notices to the president and secretary of the Faran Cooperative Society and ordered to issue eviction notices to the occupants of houses and plots. It observed that these allotments and constructions were illegal and the land had to be recovered after demolition.
During an earlier hearing, in compliance with several orders of the bench the commissioner and other officials had filed a report and claimed that all the encroachments had been removed and it was being developed as a model park.
KPT told to restore mangrove park
The bench directed the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) to convert its land near Mai Kolachi Road into a mangroves park and restore the flow of seawater within two weeks.
In February, the SC had declared the allotment of land on both sides of Mai Kolachi Road for the KPT Cooperative Housing Society as illegal and directed KPT chairman to ensure plantation of mangroves and restore the flow of seawater up to Bath Island.
When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, the lawyer for KPT filed a report and argued that the federal government was in the process of appointing a board of trustees for the KPT.
The bench deplored that despite the passage of reasonable time, the KPT did not comply with its order. Since the KPT chairman had been appointed and he also assumed office he was directed to comply with the order, it added.
The bench allowed applications of some purchasers of the plots seeking remedy from relevant department for compensation.
Water supply to DHA
The bench directed the CBC and the Defence Housing Authority to work out a mechanism and ensure supply of water to DHA residents. It asked them to file a report in two weeks.
The CBC and DHA filed reports regarding the issues being faced to provide water to the residents stating that the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board was not properly supplying water.
The chief justice said that some people in the area were getting water through dedicated pipelines. The officials admitted that there were some dedicated lines.
Royal Park demolition under way
The bench directed the SRB and the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) to provide assistance to the Karachi commissioner to remove the structure of a partly demolished building adjacent to an amusement park in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.
Earlier, the SC bench had declared the lease of a two-acre plot located on Rashid Minhas Road illegal and directed the authorities to demolish the under-construction residential-cum-commercial Royal Park building.
On Wednesday, the commissioner informed the bench that three towers had been demolished and work on remaining two was under way.
The bench directed him to complete the demolition work and remove debris within one month and convert the land into a park.
The commissioner requested the bench to issue direction to the SRB and SBCA to provide assistance in order to complete the demolition of the structure without further delay.
The bench directed the SBCA and SBR to provide maximum assistance to the commissioner in terms of staff as well as machinery.
Meanwhile, the bench directed the commissioner to attach an under-construction building, owned by the owners of Royal Park building in order to recover the amount of affected persons.
The lawyer for allottees argued that both the owners of Royal Park building fled the country and the allottees had been unable to make recovery of their amount, adding that another building, owned by these owners, was being built in DHA Phase VIII and it might be attached to the extent of recovery of the amount in question as none of its units had so far been sold.
Wedding halls in Korangi
The bench issued notices to the SBCA and advocate general on an application filed against the demolition of marriage halls at Korangi Road near Korangi Crossing.
Earlier, the chief justice through an administrative order had ordered the demolition of wedding halls since the land was meant for residential purposes.
The lawyer for the applicant contended that the conversion of the land in question was made from residential to commercial well before the order of the apex court about the ban on such conversion.
Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2020