KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday ruled that Qasr-e-Fatima, commonly known as Mohatta Palace, would be used to set up a medical and dental college for girls.

The order came on a long-standing dispute over the heritage property of late Fatima Jinnah in Clifton.

A single-judge bench of SHC headed by Justice Zulfiqar Ahmad Khan ordered that the college would also have a hostel as both the plaintiffs and defendants agreed to amicably settle the dispute and accorded their consent to establish the medical and dental college.

The matter was adjourned till Nov 1 as both sides also recommended the names of some retired judges and prominent doctors and relatives of late Miss Jinnah to be part of a trust to run the affair of the proposed medical college.

However, the fate of the Mohatta Palace Museum, which is funded by the government, remains unclear.

A suit was filed in 1971 by Hussain Waliji, a relative of Miss Jinnah about the administration of her moveable and immovable properties including Qasr-e-Fatima.

After the death of Mr Waliji, his son Amir Ali became the plaintiff, but he had also passed away during the pendency of the suit and then his legal heirs had become the part of proceedings.

The litigation was initiated after the award of a succession certificate of such properties to Shireen Jinnah, the only surviving sister of Fatima Jinnah after her death on July 10, 1967. The Shireen Jinnah Charitable Trust was made as one of the defendants in the lawsuit.

On the last hearing, lawyers for both sides — relatives of Fatima Jinnah (plaintiffs) and the Shireen Jinnah Charitable Trust (defendants) — had informed the bench that they had considered the matter and progressed to amicably settle the long-standing dispute with regard to the property left by Miss Jinnah, and had exchanged certain proposals.

A provincial law officer also submitted that now both sides were moving towards implementation of the wishes of late Miss Jinnah as translated through the trust deed where it was desired that the premises of Qasr-e-Fatima will be used for the establishment of a modern medical college exclusively for girls and an attached hospital for free treatment of underprivileged persons/patients.

Thereafter, the bench had asked the provincial law officer to go through the various orders of the court and file a statement as to what assistance could be provided to achieve the ends of using the property in question as per the desires of its owners Fatima Jinnah and Shireen Jinnah.

Earlier, a counsel had drawn the attention of the bench to an order of the SHC passed in 1996 to dig out other assets left by Miss Jinnah which were allegedly handed out to the trustees through the declaration instrument on which a report was filed by the official assignee in the same year listing certain personal properties of Quaid-i-Azam and Miss Jinnah.

They sought an updated report from the official assignee in this regard, thus the bench had directed the official assignee to provide an updated list in this matter to reach to a just conclusion.

One of the counsel had also referred to an earlier order of the SHC issued in 1993 in terms of which it was ordered that the provincial government would deposit a sum of Rs61,188,000 with the official assignee as tentative sale price of Qasr-e-Fatima and asserted that upon the request of the Sindh government the property was handed over to it for repair and maintenance only.

The lawyer further referring to various earlier orders, pointed out that initial sum of Rs61 million through a cheque was deposited with the court nazir in 1994 by the provincial government that undertook to deposit the balance amount of Rs188,000 within a week, but it had deposited the remaining amount in 1996. Using such amount, the nazir had purchased Defence Savings Certificates (DSC) and Special Savings Certificates (SSC) which were still lying with him.

The nazir had informed the court that the principle profit accrued on DSC was Rs608,500 till Nov 2, 2004, and SSC was Rs399,959,500 till Jan 16, 2013.

He further submitted in a report filed in September 2015 that the profit on the DSC for the period of 10 years and on the SSC for the period of two and half years was due.

It may be recalled that on a previous order, the bench had granted a request of the plaintiff’s counsel with regard to calling the property as Qasr-e-Fatima instead of Mohatta Palace in government documents.

It had ordered the provincial government and other defendants to ensure that the said property continued to be named, tagged, labelled and described as Qasr-e-Fatima only and all the documents wherein any other name was used to describe the said property should be corrected.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2021

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