KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the provincial and local authorities to pay compensation on account of rent support to the displaced families rendered homeless following a demolition drive along three major drains (nullahs) in the city within 30 days.

The outgoing chief minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, assured the apex court that proper allocation had been made in this regard and he, before leaving his office in the evening, would issue necessary instructions for due compliance of the court orders.

About rehabilitation of dispossessed persons, a two-judge bench of the apex court comprising Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi said that the outgoing CM and senior officials of Sindh government had forwarded two proposals. The court asked the lawyer for the applicants to file a concise statement after seeking instructions from the affected people.

Orders completion of the process of compensation to families displaced due to demolition of houses along three major drains

However, the bench clarified that it was passing this order without prejudice to the application, seeking contempt proceedings against Mr Shah for not complying with earlier court orders in letter and spirit about compensation and rehabilitation of affected families, which will remain intact and pending for further proceedings if the matter was not resolved in view of undertaking and proposals placed before the court during Thursday’s proceedings.

Contempt notice

A day earlier, the apex court had put the CM on notice to initiate contempt proceedings for not complying with its earlier orders as well as his undertaking and not filing monthly progress report about compensation and resettlement of 9,632 families displaced during the demolition operation for expansion of Gujjar, Orangi Town and Mehmoodabad nullahs. It had also asked the chief secretary Sindh, Karachi mayor and commissioner to turn up and assist the court in the matter.

At the outset of the hearing on Thursday, the outgoing CM, Chief Secretary Dr Mohammad Sohail Rajput, Mayor Murtaza Wahab and Commissioner Iqbal Memon were in attendance.

Representing the applicants, Faisal Siddiqui advocate invited the attention of judges to the orders previously issued and directions contained therein for compliance and expressed the grievance that such orders were not complied with in letter and spirit.

Mr Shah and the Karachi mayor also referred to previous orders and explained why the timelines fixed in these orders were not complied with and also expressed regret for non-filing of the progress reports.

After hearing the issue at some length and before formally initiating contempt proceedings against the outgoing CM, the bench asked him, the mayor and other government officials whether they were sincerely committed to the implementation of the orders passed by the apex court for compensating and rehabilitating affected people who were dispossessed from their abodes.

The bench noted that Mr Shah and other officials present in the court in one voice showed their willingness to resolve the matter sincerely and both parties exchanged different proposals vice versa in order to settle the matter in the best interest of dispossessed persons who were waiting for the fulfillment of the promises made to them for compensation and rehabilitation and such undertakings were also recorded in the court’s orders including disbursement of amount on account of rental support per household in a sum of Rs15,000 each per month for two years.

At this juncture, the counsel for applicants argued that two tranches in cheques, each worth Rs90,000 were due, but the same were not released despite the lapse of a considerable period.

Some of the affected people also informed the bench that a number of displaced families have yet to get any cheque on account of rental support as their claims were still pending and the relevant government officials were allegedly demanding a bribe against release of such cheques.

However, the outgoing chief minster assured the bench that the cheques would be prepared and delivered and after deliberations and by consent a mechanism of making payment of rental support and proposal of rehabilitation were jotted down.

Seven-day time fixed

The bench in its order said that according to agreed statistics, the total displaced families of three nullahs stood at 6,932 and cheques of those who had not received the sanctioned amount must be prepared within seven-day time without any further delay or excuse.

“The unpaid affectees may collect their cheques for the aforesaid period within 30 days. The timeline of 30 days is fixed to ensure timely payment to the affectees and, in case any affectees due to some reasons beyond his control failed to collect the cheque, he will not be deprived of his right of compensation and may also approach the authority for the disbursement of his cheques,” it added.

The bench further said that such cheques would be disbursed from the office of the deputy commissioner (south) between 10am and 2pm daily on working days under the supervision of the commissioner office and the commissioner Karachi also undertook that he would personally supervise the fair disbursement of the cheques amongst the affectees.

It also directed that the DC (south) would continue the window operation for the affectees and ensure timely release of cheques, facilitation to the affectees in the process and removal of all difficulties that they might face.

It also stated that in case of any complaint due to delay or non-release of cheques, the affectees may file their complaint to the additional commissioner-II, who is appointed as focal person by the commissioner to ensure that complaints, if any, with regard to non-issuance of cheques, delay in release of cheques or any other issue in this respect must be taken up immediately and resolved.

Govt’s proposals

Regarding Rs10 billion rehabilitation scheme for the dispossessed families, the bench said that outgoing chief minister, mayor and other senior officials have forwarded proposals that government would release the amounts to each of the affected family for purchase of land and construction according to the market value of land from where the affectees were dispossessed while regarding the cost of construction, the standards laid down by the Pakistan Engineering Council for construction of house measuring 80 square yards, would be followed.

In the alternate, the provincial government will allot a plot measuring 80 square yards to each of the displaced families and after handing over peaceful vacant possession of such plots with title and free from all encumbrances, the cost of construction would also be paid to each of the affected families in accordance with the standards set out by the PEC, they further proposed.

Information through media

The apex court directed the Sindh government that in order to ensure timely disbursement of cheques to unpaid affectees public notices also be issued in the vernacular newspapers for information of affectees so that they may easily collect their cheques and also consider the proposals placed by the government for rehabilitation scheme.

Compliance report

The bench also sought an interim compliance report about issuing cheques on or before Sept 11 and said the matter would be fixed for hearing after one month.

These directives were issued on an application filed by a NGO and some affectees seeking sought contempt proceedings against the outgoing CM for allegedly violating court orders.

In its earlier orders passed in 2021, the apex court had directed the provincial government to provide Rs15,000 each month to every affected family for two years and also provide them accommodations in a couple of years while the Mr Shah had also assured the apex court that the rehabilitation process will be completed in two years.

Demonstration

Meanwhile, a large number of the affected persons including women turned up on the second consecutive day and staged a protest outside the apex court building against the authorities for failing to compensate and rehabilitate them.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2023

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