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SHC seeks details of land grant policy

December 20, 2012

KARACHI, Dec 20: The Sindh High Court has directed the provincial chief law officer to place on record the ‘land grant policy’ governing status conversion of agricultural land into residential, commercial and industrial ones.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam gave this direction on Wednesday while hearing a petition seeking the court’s order for release of original challans of conversion of 10-acre agriculture land into industrial one.

Petitioner Dawoodi Morkas, son of Ali Bhai Morkas, a resident of Clifton, was allotted 20 acres of agriculture land in Deh Gundpass, Tapo Ganopat, Keamari for purpose of ‘wahi chahi’ (non-irrigated area cultivation) for a 30-year lease on May 27, 2011 by the additional district officer (revenue), City District Government Karachi. He deposited Rs135,000 as lease money in the account of the Mukhtiarkar concerned.

He stated that the Sindh chief minister on his request converted the 30-year lease into 99-year lease on Oct 11, 2011.

The petitioner, represented by Advocate Asim Iqbal, submitted that later he applied for the conversion of status of 10 acres into industrial which was also approved by the competent authority.

He said that the land utilization department prepared a challan for the land status conversion on Oct 24, fixing Jan 23, 2013 as last date for payment.

The petitioner stated that land utilisation department officials handed over to him only photocopies of the challan and demanded illegal gratification for the release of original challan to him. He alleged that the officials threatened him that they would not hand over the original challan to him and show him as defaulter to cancel his lease.

He prayed to the court to direct the respondent officials to issue the original challan to him and extend the deadline for payment.

The bench took exception to the fact as to how and under what law the status of the agriculture land was converted into industrial one merely within five months.

“We are extremely doubtful that such agricultural lease can be converted into 99 years lease without putting the land into auction for conversion of the land from agricultural to industrial purposes,” it observed.

The bench ordered: “Let notice be issued to the respondents and so also to the Advocate-General to place the Land Grant Policy governing conversion of agricultural land into residential, commercial and industrial purposes.

The court ordered that the matter would be heard on opening of courts immediately after the winter vacation.

Consumers’ protection law case

The same bench directed the additional advocate-general to submit details of the meeting held on proposed legislation for enactment of consumers’ protection law in the province.

The court was hearing the petition of a civil right campaigner, Rana Faizul Hassan, who prayed to the court to direct the provincial authorities to promulgate a consumers’ protection law to protect the consumers’ rights.

The petitioner stated that no legislation was ever done in the province by any government in the past that caused exploitation of consumers in urban and rural areas where they were being fleeced by traders.

He submitted that the district coordination officers in Punjab were authorised to take immediate action against such retailers if found involved in selling substandard items, but such a law did not exist in Sindh.

Earlier, the court had directed the provincial law secretary to convene the meeting of all the stakeholders for proposing the legislation.

On Thursday, AAG Miran Muhammad Shah informed the court that the meeting as directed by the court was held.

The bench directed him to place on record the minutes of the meeting and further progress in matter before the next date of the hearing to be later fixed by the court office.