• Applicants say Sindh govt violated apex court’s orders regarding their resettlement
• At least 32,500 families are presently living on the rubble of their demolished homes, court told
KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a contempt notice to outgoing Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah for non-complying with its 2021 orders to launch and execute a Rs10 billion scheme for resettlement of thousands of families displaced by expansion of city’s three major storm water drains.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi summoned CM Shah, the alleged contemnor, on Thursday (today) to explain as to why he might not be proceeded for wilfully and deliberately committing contempt of the court.
The bench also issued notices to the advocate general, Sindh chief secretary, Karachi mayor and commissioner to assist the court in the matter to be taken up on Thursday at 11am at SC’s Karachi registry.
The court was hearing an application jointly filed by rights activists and affectees of Gujjar Nullah, Mehmoodabad Nullah and Orangi Nullah, who sought contempt proceedings against the CM for allegedly not complying with the court’s directives issued on June 14, Sept 22 and Oct 25 in 2021 and also not honouring his own undertaking made before the court to resettle thousands of affected families within two years.
As the judges heard the matter, a large number of the affected persons, including women, staged a protest against the CM and other authorities for failing to rehabilitate them and even stopping the payment of monthly rent.
The bench observed that in fact this was an application for initiation of contempt proceedings against the Sindh CM for non-compliance of the apex court’s orders dated June 14, Sept 22 and Oct 25, 2021.
Applicants’ lawyer Faisal Siddiqi argued that in the last order, dated Oct 25, 2021, a specific time line of two years was mentioned and it was further directed that a monthly report be filed with the court by the provincial authorities about progress on the resettlement scheme.
However, the counsel submitted that no report had so far been filed with the court by the government since the last order.
The bench observed: “We also enquired from the office whether any report has been filed and the office apprised us that no such report has been received.”
Advocate Siddiqi contended that due to non-compliance and inaction of the provincial government, persons who were dispossessed from their homes were facing great difficulties and hardship.
The bench ordered: “Issue notice to the alleged contemnor/respondent to appear in-person.”
In the contempt plea, the counsel stated the apex court’s Oct 25, 2021 order gave numerous directions to the CM, but none of them had been complied with by him, despite almost the lapse of the time graciously allowed by the court.
He contended till date the government had not completely disbursed the promised amount of Rs15,000 per month rent, per household for two years. The said amount was to be disbursed in four instalments to be given after every six months. However, till date only two instalments had been disbursed, he added.
“There are no finalised plans or designs of the buildings that will be built pursuant to the aforementioned scheme,” he said, adding: “As a result of this clear and blatant violation of the directions passed by this Honourable Court, the affectees are deprived of their rights to life, dignity, safety, shelter, and housing.”
He said that due to the alleged contemnor’s blatant violations of SC’s directives, at least 32,500 families, particularly women, young girls, children, and elderly, were presently living on the rubble of their demolished homes. These people were left without a roof and without access to basic sanitation, toilets, and bathrooms, he added.
He contended that the Sindh CM, being alleged contemnor, had wilfully disobeyed, disregarded and flouted the directions and wilfully breached his undertaking rendered before the court thrice on June 14, Sept 22 and Oct 25 in 2021, which was a clear-cut case of contempt against the alleged contemnor.
He pleaded the apex court to initiate contempt proceedings against Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah for allegedly deliberately and malafidely disregarding and violating the apex court’s orders.
Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2023