KARACHI: The Sindh High Court extended on Tuesday its earlier restraining order against the demolition of leased properties around Gujjar and Orangi nullahs till June 1.
The two-judge SHC bench headed by Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi ruled that the authorities concerned be allowed to obtain appropriate orders from the Supreme Court, after a provincial law officer and counsel for the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) said that they were not aware of any order of the SC regarding cancellation of leases of the properties in question.
In the last hearing, the bench had restrained the authorities from demolishing the leased prosperities around both drains till the adjudication of the same by the SC as it was informed that the KMC had approached the apex court to seek clarification about the demolition of the leased properties around both nullahs and the matter was set for hearing on May 17.
Petitioners contend their properties are not encroachments
When a set of petitions filed against the ongoing anti-encroachment drive and demolition of leased properties around the drains came up for hearing before the divisional bench on Tuesday, the counsel for petitioner Faisal Siddiqui informed the court that a bench of the apex court headed by the chief justice had heard cases on Monday at the Supreme Court’s Karachi Registry, but this matter did not come up for hearing.
However, he contended that the petitioners had also filed an application before the SC for an early hearing of the case.
The lawyer further informed the bench that another application was filed by the KMC before the apex court seeking appropriate orders in respect of the proceedings pending before the anti-encroachment tribunal established under the Sindh Public Property (Removal of Encroachment) Act, 2010.
The counsel for the petitioners also argued that the KMC had approached the apex court for the removal of encroachments and not for the properties leased out by the different government departments for 99 years.
The bench asked the KMC lawyer and the assistant advocate general of Sindh if the apex court had passed any order for the cancellation of the leases issued under the Katchi Abadis Act, 1987 as well as by the Karachi Development Authority in respect of the properties in question.
However, they both submitted that they had no knowledge of the passing of any such order regarding cancellation of leases.
“In such circumstances, let respondents to obtain appropriate orders from the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan. Adjourned to 01.06.2021. Interim orders, passed earlier, to continue till the next date of hearing,” the bench in its order concluded.
Some NGOs with dozens of individuals had moved the SHC stating that their houses near the Gujjar and Orangi nullahs were leased by the KMC and other departments and now they were being demolished in alleged pursuance of the Supreme Court’s orders.
While referring to the Aug 12, 2020 order of the apex court, they argued that it was to the extent of removing the encroachments in and around the nullahs.
The petitioners also contended that the apex court in its order also directed the Sindh government to ensure rehabilitation of the affected persons/residents of the areas and all necessary facilities be provided as required for the rehabilitation of a civilised society.
Earlier, the petitioners’ lawyers also had pointed out that the provincial and local authorities had planned to construct 30-foot-wide roads on both banks of the nullahs and this fact had not been brought to the knowledge of the apex court at the time of passing of the order in question and no permission had been granted for the construction of 30-foot-wide roads, adding that the respondents had started marking for the demolition of the houses of the residents up to the extent of 30 feet on both sides of the nullahs.
The additional commissioner of Karachi had earlier contended that the government had evolved a policy for the affected and would provide a Rs15,000 per month rent for two years to the affected families and would also provide accommodations in the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme announced by the federal government.
He further submitted that the process of construction of roads on both sides of the nullahs was being planned and designed under the supervision of the National Disaster Management Authority and it had given the task to their consultants.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2021