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Bilawal House, Karachi – File photo by PPI
Bilawal House, Karachi – File photo by PPI

KARACHI, Aug 7: The Sindh High Court directed the provincial authorities to return within seven days the containers they had taken from a shipping agency and placed near the Bilawal House for its security.

While disposing of the shipping agency’s constitutional petition against the forcible taking away of 19 containers, a division bench also directed the respondent authorities to make payment of compensation for using the petitioner’s property.

The petition was filed by the Aaras Shipping Agency through its director Rizwan Ahmed, who impleaded the chief secretary, provincial and city police chiefs and the SHO of the Mauripur police station.

The petitioner, represented by Advocate Syed Baqar Ali Naqvi, submitted that a police party headed by Assistant Sub-Inspector Gulzar Ahmed forcibly took away the containers from the firm’s warehouse within the remit of the Mauripur police station on Jan 5, 2011.

He said that the police told the company staff that the containers were taken for security near the Bilawal House, the president’s camp office in the city.

The counsel said that the respondents took away his client’s property in gross violation of Articles 18 and 24 of the Constitution for the so-called security arrangements around the president’s city residence in the name of the public interest.

Advocate Naqvi said that the petitioner was a local shipping agent and enjoyed right of freedom of trade and business under Article 18.

The counsel said that the containers were meant for specific purpose of stuffing goods for transportation abroad through sea and the petitioner needed them for running his business smoothly.

He said that the market value of a 20-foot container was around Rs200,000 and the total value of 19 containers was Rs3.8 million.

The counsel said that the petitioner firm approached the respondent officials through a formal letter requesting them to return the containers, but they did not even bother to make a reply to his request.

The petitioner prayed to the court to direct the respondent to pay compensation for unlawfully utilising the petitioner’s property at the rate of $8 per day per containers from the date of their impounding.

The division bench headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam observed in its order: “It may be observed that no person could be deprived of his property without due process of law and/or without due compensation in terms of Article 24 (3) of the Constitution. Accordingly, the respondents are directed to restore the containers to the petitioner within seven days in proper condition”.

The bench also directed the home secretary to determine the compensation for utilising the containers. “Let report of payment of compensation through cross check to the petitioner, as may be determined by the Secretary of the Home Department, be placed on record.”

Committee for milk prices

The same bench put off to Aug 23 the hearing of a contempt of court application on the fixation of milk prices after the counsel for the petitioner suggested to form a representative committee to resolve the issue.

The contempt of court application was filed by the All Karachi Milk Retailers Welfare Association against the city administration and others for not complying with the court’s earlier orders regarding the fixation of dairy product prices.

The petitioner association submitted that the commissioner issued the impugned notification in violation of the court’s directions and fixed the price of milk at Rs60 per litre without considering the production cost of the dairy product, which was unjust.

It submitted that the SHC had directed to decide the just price of milk from the stage of production cost, wholesale price and retailers’ valuation after consulting with all stakeholders including dairy farmers.

The milk retailers association submitted that the city government refused to verify the existence of milk wholesalers in the city while fixing the milk price. It said that the city government did not regulate prices for the wholesalers and its act was arbitrary and capricious exercise of discretion. The association also challenged the criminal and punitive action against its members by the city administration.