SC resents delay in completion of Karachi's transport-related projects

KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed resentment over an inordinate delay in completion of transport-related projects in the city after the provincial authorities claimed that two such projects had almost been completed. While hearing a set of petitions regarding encroachments and transport issues, a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, observed that it wanted a practical solution to Karachi's transport issues, but things were getting worse. The advocate general and the transport secretary of Sindh informed the bench about the Karachi Mass Transit Plan funded by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

They said the Green Line and Orange Line projects had almost been completed while work on other such projects was under way. The chief justice came down hard on the transport secretary when he admitted that these projects had been launched around three years ago, saying these schemes must be completed within one year.

Authorities directed to remove encroachments from railway land without any discrimination

On the issue of revival of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan said besides revival of the KCR, there were some other projects also for the provincial metropolis under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and one of the these projects could be chosen for timely completion. The federal law officer said they were ready to brief the judges on this issue in their chambers.

On Feb 21, the apex court had directed the Pakistan Railways to revive the KCR within six months and also warned that in case of non-compliance, action would be taken for not only contempt of court but also for not complying with mandatory commands of the Constitution. The court observed that transportation of people from one area of the city to another had almost become impossible due to non-availability of road transport and whatever transport was there, it was inhuman and below the dignity of the people. The Sindh government and Pakistan Railways as well as the federal government appeared not willing to improve the situation, it deplored.

Royal Park building The bench dismissed a review application against its earlier order to demolish an under-construction building adjacent to an amusement park in Gulshan-i-Iqbal. The bench observed that no fresh ground had been made out in the application.

Earlier, the apex court had declared the lease of a two-acre plot, located on Rashid Minhas Road, illegal and directed the authorities concerned to demolish the under-construction residential-cum-commercial multistorey Royal Park building. The lawyer for the applicant moved an application seeking review of the order and argued that a UAE-based businessman had invested billions of rupees in this project. The lawyer said the plot was leased out by the Sindh Revenue Board in 2010 to the builder for 99 years.

However, he admitted that it was mentioned in the lease documents that the land was being allotted in exchange of other land and contented that it was an irregularity on the part of officials concerned which, he claimed, had been rectified. Last month, the bench had dismissed an identical application of the builder and observed that the land was purported to have been illegally sold by the Sindh government, thus, all documents pertaining to transfer of the land were declared unlawful. Even otherwise, the allotment and lease documents appeared to be false and fraudulent, and thus, were not sustainable in law and hereby cancelled, the court ruled.

The bench also turned down another application moved by the allottees of Royal Park building seeking recovery of the money from the builder and directed them to approach the proper forum. The counsel for the applicants argued that around 400 allottees had paid Rs1.5 billion against the booking of apartments in the under-construction building. Kidney Hill Park

The bench was told that a survey was being conducted to ascertain the actual boundaries of Kidney Hill Park (Ahmed Ali Park). The bench directed the lawyer for the applicants and other interested parties to participate in the survey and directed the authorities concerned to complete the exercise at earliest. During a previous hearing, the mayor of Karachi was directed to remove encroachments on the land of the park and file a compliance report.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation told the bench that it had retrieved the 62-acre land of the park and a PC-I of Rs950 million had been prepared to develop it as a model park. However, Amber Alibhai of Shehri, an NGO, contended that only 55 acres of land had been retrieved and a private school and some houses still existed on the remaining 7.5 acres of land. The bench directed the commissioner of Karachi to remove the encroachments from the remaining land after due verification of the site and record.

However, some of the occupants through their counsel moved the apex court and contended that the land in question had been leased out to them. On Friday, the bench was informed that a survey was being conducted to ascertain whether the houses had been built inside or outside the park premises. Illegal building

The bench dismissed another application against its previous order regarding demolition of an illegal building on Shahrah-i-Quaideen and directed the commissioner of Karachi to complete the demolition process. The apex court had ordered the demolition of the building after it was pointed out that originally the plot did not exist on the map of the Sindh Muslim Cooperative Housing Society (SMCHS) and it had been carved out from the service road and amenity/drain land. The bench had observed that the SMCHS had not only exceeded its powers, but the Sindh Building Control Authority and other authorities were also responsible for the construction of this building and ordered action against them in accordance with law.

Encroachments on railways land The bench directed the commissioner of Karachi to ensure that the ongoing drive against encroachments on railways land must be carried out across the board after a lawyer contended that a selective drive was being carried out as only the dwellings of underprivileged people were being removed while concrete buildings had not been demolished yet. However, the commissioner maintained that the drive was being conducted without any discrimination and they had also demolished petrol pumps, wedding halls and other buildings located within premises of railway land.

Earlier, the apex court had observed that the railway land was encroached upon and even both sides of railway land from Keamari and up to Landhi were also encroached upon and ordered demolition of structures built on the land. The apex court had also asked the Pakistan Railways and Sindh government for relocation of the affected people in a decent manner. Motorcycles distributed

Later in the day, Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed attended a ceremony organised by the Sindh High Court Bar Association in connection with the International Women's Day on the premises of SHC.

On this occasion, the justice chief distributed the keys of motorcycles among women lawyers.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2020

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