KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday came down hard on the provincial and local authorities over unauthorised allotment of land and lack of town planning in the metropolis.
A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed slammed the Karachi commissioner, director general of the Sindh Building Control Authority and a senior member of the Sindh Revenue Board (SRB) as they failed to offer any explanation about the incorporation of land reserved for a road into a plot in the Sindhi Muslim Housing Society.
The visibly irked chief justice wondered under what law a mukhtiarkar could operate on the land of a housing society after a report of the mukhtiarkar was placed before the bench about leasing out the plot in question and a 15-storey building known as Nasla Tower built on it.
The chief justice also expressed resentment over the advocate general of Sindh, Salman Talibuddin, for defending the allotment instead of assisting the bench, which included Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.
A letter of the mukhtiarkar produced before the bench said that initially, the plot was extended after road alignment and in 2010 it was further enlarged after incorporation of the land reserved for a road and it was currently measuring over 1,121 square yards.
Commissioner Navid Shaikh was clueless when the bench asked him how the land meant for a road was made part of the plot.
Then the bench inquired from SBCA DG Shamsuddin Soomro how the building regulatory authority had approved the layout plan. He contended that they granted approval only after checking the title of the land.
FWO given nine months to build overhead bridges, underpasses on KCR route
The SRB member also sought time to submit details about the mukhtiarkar (Ferozeabad) and contended that he took charge only on Wednesday as previously he was serving as the secretary of boards and universities.
The chief justice remarked that the commissioner was a rubber stamp and the SBCA DG was pretending to be innocent, but he was unaware of the SBCA affairs and powerless as apparently other people were looking after the authority.
He further said that this was a fraud and approval was granted on the basis of fake documents. He added that the SBCA, sub-registrar and revenue offices were the most corrupt palaces in the province.
Justice Ahsan also said that those leases were all money-making tools.
It is an admitted position that a road has been occupied for the construction of the building, the bench stated, while the advocate general, SBCA DG and commissioner requested for time to file reports on such questions and to examine the legality of the building.
Thereafter, the bench issued notices to the owner of the tower and others for the next hearing.
Karachi Circular Railway
The bench directed the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) to complete the construction of overhead bridges and underpasses on the route of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) within nine months.
The Karachi commissioner submitted that after clearing, around 30 kilometres of the KCR track had been handed over to Pakistan Railways.
The railway officials said local train service had already been launched between Orangi and City stations and the City and Pipri stations. However, they said the route of Nazimabad and Gulshan-i-Iqbal could not be made functional due to the hurdles related to the Green Line project.
When the bench asked the Sindh government about its earlier order to expedite work on underpasses, overhead bridges and fencing at the level crossings to ensure that the operation of the KCR was not obstructed because of road traffic, the Sindh secretary transport argued that the work had been assigned to the FWO.
He further submitted that Rs25 million had already been provided to the FWO for pre-feasibility and designs and the next meeting of railways, FWO and Sindh government officials was convened on April 10 to finalise it and commencement of work on 14 structures on the KCR route.
The bench observed that after the approval at the April 10 meeting, the FWO would try to complete the work within nine months.
Kidney Hill Park
The bench issued notices to the Karachi commissioner, attorney general, Shehri-Citizens for Better Environment and the housing societies concerned on an application filed against the proposed demolition of around five houses reportedly located on the Kidney Hill Park premises.
The lawyer for the owners of the houses, including Federal Minister for Privatisation Mohammedmian Soomro, contended that those houses were not located on the Kidney Hill Park premises, but in Overseas Housing Society.
The counsel further argued that those plots had existed even before the park was established.
The chief justice expressed surprise after the bench was informed that those plots were located on the boundaries of three housing societies as well as the Kidney Hill Park.
The bench also directed the commissioner to remove encroachments on the park premises after it was informed that a mazar (shrine) was being set up on the site.
Earlier, the commissioner had informed the bench that the 62-acre land of Kidney Hill Park had been retrieved and a PC-I of Rs950m had been submitted to develop it as a model park.
However, a representative of Shehri had contended that only 55 acres of the land had been retrieved as 24 houses on the premises of the park, leased by the Faran Cooperative Society, had not been demolished yet while around five plots were carved out by Overseas Society, adjacent to the park, after excavation of the hill.
Wedding halls’ demolition
The SC bench on Thursday partly heard arguments on an application filed against the demolition of marriage halls on Korangi Road near Korangi Crossing and adjourned the matter for Friday.
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 a committee of the SBCA had recommended conversion of such halls from residential to commercial in 2017 under Section 21-A of the Sindh Building Town Regulations and issued a notification in that regard.
Justice Ahsan said how the SBCA could change the status of land and added that as per the section in question all the regulations had to be consistent with the ordinance.
In response to another contention of the counsel, he further said that change of land status was not an improvement while the committee of the SBCA could supervise the matter and not make recommendations.
Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan submitted that conversion could not be made under Section 21-A until there was a law and added that town planning was a very complicated matter and needed to be properly regulated.
The advocate general sought time to make a submission about town planning in the provincial metropolis.
Meanwhile, the commissioner contended that 158 illegal marriage halls had so far been demolished in the city.
The bench directed him to continue the operation against the wedding halls built on amenity plots and public spaces across the city.
Royal Park building
The bench directed the commissioner to complete the demolition work of an under-construction building adjacent to an amusement park in Gulshan-i-Iqbal and also turned down a review petition against its earlier order.
The commissioner submitted that the demolition of the building had been done while 80 per cent of work on the basement had also been completed and one-month time was required to complete the task.
Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2021