KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday directed the provincial government to establish special courts within a month in order to try cases of illegal and unauthorised construction across the province.

A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar, observed that a complete mechanism had been provided in the Sindh Building Control (Amendment) Act, 2013 and the government was legally bound to establish such special courts in all towns of Sindh.

However, it deplored that despite the lapse of over 10 years, the provincial authorities had yet to comply with a mandatory provision of the 2013 law.

The Sindh Building Control Ordinance was promulgated in 1979 and a provision about setting up special courts was inserted through an amendment in 2013.

SHC expresses dismay over non-compliance of 2013 law under which govt is bound to establish special courts

The SHC directed the chief secretary and law secretary to implement its order in 30 days and warned that in case of failure, the law secretary would be summoned.

When the bench took up for hearing a set of petitions about illegal and unauthorised construction in the city, the counsel for Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) and police filed reports in the light of earlier court orders.

During the proceedings, it noted that Section 18-A of the Sindh Building Control (Amendment) Act, 2013 bound the provincial government to establish special courts and appoint judges of such courts after consultation with the chief justice of the SHC and no person be appointed as judge unless he or she had been a sessions or has 10 years’ standing as an advocate.

The bench also observed that under the law, upon the establishment of such courts, all cases relating to the violation of the provisions of this act, pending in any court, shall stand transferred to the special courts having jurisdiction over such cases.

The bench in its order said that a complete mechanism had been provided and the province of Sindh was bound to establish special courts in the towns all over Sindh, but on a query, it had come on record that this section had not been complied with by the province despite the passage of over a decade as the ordinance was promulgated in the year 1979 and the provision in question was added in 2013.

“This court takes judicial notice and issue directions to the province of Sindh that law department shall notify the special courts provided under the Act in the area(s) falling within the limits of municipal corporations by establishing independent courts or by notifying regular courts as special courts with the consultation of Hon’ble Chief Justice of Sindh as provided under the Act,” it added.

The bench said that this order must be complied with within one month. “In case of failure secretary law shall be in attendance. This order shall be communicated to chief secretary Sindh and secretary law for compliance. Non-compliance would be considered as pejorative act on the part of concerned authorities,” it concluded.

Appointment mechanism sought

The same bench also summoned the director general of the SBCA along with a complete mechanism of appointments in the authority.

The bench noted that in view of Section 4-B of the Sindh Building Control Ordinance 1979, the government may appoint a committee which may subject to the control and direction of government oversee the functioning of the authority.

When the bench confronted the lawyer for the SBCA on the subject matter, he stated that generally, the authority notified a committee and inducted officers up to grade-17 in view of rules whereby candidates were required to appear in a written test and viva voce.

“The DG SBCA shall be in attendance and submit complete mechanism of appointment in terms whether such appointments are based on prometric system or through third party testing agencies as adopted by government of Sindh and shall also submit guidelines to conduct the exams. Complete details of recruitment within last six years shall be submitted including the details of tests conducted by that committee along with publications and mandate of that committee,” the bench stated in its order.

About constitution of a committee as provided in Section 4-B, the bench said, “Secretary local government, government of Sindh shall submit notification, if any, under Section 4B referred above and focal person of secretary local government, government of Sindh shall be in attendance to assist the court.”

The hearing was adjourned till Feb 28.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2024

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