SHC stays takeover of Mohatta Palace by official assignee

Published December 3, 2021
A view of Mohatta Palace. —Photo from Mohattapalacemuseum.com/File
A view of Mohatta Palace. —Photo from Mohattapalacemuseum.com/File

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Thursday directed the official assignee not to take over the possession of Qasr-e-Fatima, commonly known as Mohatta Palace, till the final decision on an around 50-year-old suit about the heritage property.

While disposing of a set of intra-court appeals filed against orders of a single-judge bench, the division bench of SHC headed by Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi also said that since the matter was very old, the final judgement/decree on the suit pending before the single-judge bench may be passed at an early date and preferably within four weeks after hearing concluding arguments from the lawyers of parties.

It further stated that the single bench in an order had directed the provincial government and defendants to change the name of the subject property from Mohatta Palace to Qasr-e-Fatima in all documents and the same would remain suspended till a final decision on the suit in question.

“However, the learned single judge may be at liberty to pass appropriate order to this effect, either by consent of parties or otherwise, at the time of deciding of the final fate of the subject suit,” the two-judge bench in its order added.

Directive issued to change name of the heritage building to Qasr-e-Fatima in all documents

It further said that all lawyers for parties must appear before the single bench on the next date, which according to the lawyers has been fixed on Dec 8.

“The suit may be taken up for arguments on Dec 15 when the counsel for parties may be at liberty to make their submissions on all factual and legal aspects involved in the matter and the single bench may pass appropriate orders and shall finally decide the suit through judgment or decree in accordance with law,” it concluded.

Last month, the division bench through an interim order had restrained the official assignee from taking over the possession of property after the provincial government and the Mohatta Palace Gallery Trust, which is currently maintaining a museum there, filed intra-court appeals against earlier orders of the single-judge bench. Later, neighbouring residents of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah’s heritage property located in Clifton also approached the bench against the single bench’s order.

On Oct 13, the single bench had directed the official assignee to take over possession of the building for setting up a medical college and the same to be run under an independent body with the consent of the parties.

In another order the bench had also stated that only Qasr-e-Fatima be used as the name of the heritage property in all documents.

However, the provincial government in its appeal contended that an assistant advocate general had given consent to the impugned order of Oct 13 without any authority as he did not have any instruction to record his consent and the same was not binding on the appellants.

The order was passed on a suit filed by a relative of Fatima Jinnah about the administration of her moveable and immovable properties including Qasr-e-Fatima in 1971 against the Shireen Jinnah Charitable Trust and others.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2021

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