KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) directed on Saturday the Sindh government to provide all the required funds and resources to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) to conduct operations to remove encroachments, including political offices, from 35,000 amenity plots in the metropolis.
A two-judge special bench, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar, also directed the director-general of the KDA and KMC’s municipal commissioner to ensure that 1,569 amenity plots retrieved from encroachers were not reoccupied in the future and used only for the interests of citizens and betterment of the city.
The bench passed these directives while hearing former Karachi nazim Advocate Niamatullah Khan's petition against the illegal conversion of 700 amenity plots for residential and commercial use, including the establishment of political offices. The other petition related to illegal allotment of amenity plots by the KDA for residential and commercial purposes. The cases were heard at SC's Karachi Registry.
At the outset, the bench took up a report filed by the SC's additional registrar dated September 21, 2013 in compliance with the court's order passed on March 28, 2013.
The registrar's report showed that a large number of plots meant for amenity purposes had been encroached upon and were being used for purposes other than amenity, such as for offices of political parties.
"All illegal structures on amenity plots need to be removed immediately," noted the bench members.
KDA has little to show for ‘massive’ encroachment drives
In the circumstances, the counsels appearing for the KDA and KMC requested a short adjournment in order to examine the additional registrar's report.
The bench directed them to report compliance to the court within one month and adjourned the matter accordingly.
35,000 encroached amenity plots
In the matter relating to encroachments of over 35,000 amenity plots in the city, a report signed by KDA's director-general and director of estate and enforcement was filed, which showed that some removal operations were conducted by the authority in various areas of Karachi and a total of 1,569 structures had been removed from amenity plots. The apex court had passed orders on November 27 and 29, 2017, ordering the KDA and KMC to remove illegal encroachments from 35,000 amenity plots.
Justice Ahmed came down hard on Chief Secretary Muhammad Rizwan Memon over the government’s failure to protect the amenity spaces from land grabbers.
As the acting KMC municipal commissioner failed to answer the court's queries, the bench told Memon it seemed as if the city's administrative affairs were being run on an ad-hoc basis, as the municipal commissioner knew nothing about the city.
Advocate Sarki and KDA Director-General Samiuddin Siddiqui said that the land was now in the KDA’s possession. They maintained that the KDA was going to make use of the retrieved land in accordance with the rules but also in the best interest of the citizens of Karachi. It was stated that further action of removing illegal structures from amenity plots was continuing on a day to day basis.
Notices issued in amenity plots’ encroachment case
Siddiqui said that as the KDA was short of resources, a summary had been sent to the chief minister for allocation of funds and resources.
Advocate-General Barrister Zamir Ghumro said all such resources and funds will be made available to the KDA for expeditious compliance of the court’s orders.
A KMC counsel also filed a report, signed by the municipal commissioner, dated February 3, which showed that some structures had been demolished from amenity plots. He stated that the day to day operation was ongoing for demolition of illegal structures from amenity plots.
KMC's lawyer assured the court that on resumption of possession of the amenity plots, they would be utilised in accordance with the rules for the betterment of the city. The lawyer stated that the KMC was short of resources and funds and could not undertake a full operation unless the Sindh government provided adequate resources and funds to it.
Ghumro said on the receipt of requisition from the KMC the Sindh government would provide all required resources and funds to ensure the compliance of the court's orders.
"We observe that all the encroached lands, which are resumed by the KMC, KDA, district municipal corporations and all other agencies in Karachi, shall be protected by the respective agencies and it will be ensured that such lands are not reoccupied or encroached by any person," the judges ordered.
SC gives two days to clear amenity plots in Karachi
They further directed all the agencies to take steps and submit their respective reports by the next date of hearing. The hearing was adjourned for a month.
Alternative plot for petitioner
KDA lawyer Shahab Sarki also filed a copy of a letter dated February 3, signed by KDA Land Management Director Syed Arshad Abbas by which commercial plots (Nos. RS-25 and RS-26) measuring 80 square yards each in Sector 11-I of North Karachi had been offered to the petitioner in lieu of a residential plot No. R-99 in Sector 7-D/1 measuring 160 square yards subject to realisation of differential amount.
The judges noted that the equitable principle requires that it should be in accordance with the prevailing market rates of residential plot of the petitioner and of the two commercial plots offered to her.
Sarki said that this will be done and a fraction of amount will be paid to the petitioner by way of compensation for the late settlement of the matter.
Court extends order to federal land
Extending the scope of its orders for removal of illegal encroachments from amenity plots, the SC also sought on Saturday reports on amenity plots from the federal departments including cantonment boards and other civic agencies.
The bench noted that a better part of Karachi was also occupied by the cantonment boards and Defence Housing Authority (DHA), adding that a similar situation as was prevailing in other parts of the city had been noted in these areas too.
Therefore, they directed the chief executive officers of all the cantonment boards and DHA administrator to submit their reports within one month, showing that the court's November 27 and 29 orders, were also implemented in these areas.
Authorities finalise plan to retrieve amenity plots in city
They also directed the Karachi Port Trust, Pakistan Railways, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, Malir Development Authority and Lyari Development Authority to submit similar reports, specifically mentioning whether the lands given to them for specific purposes of amenity use, are being used for this purpose.
They will also provide full details of the purposes for which this land is now being used.
They called all such reports within one month, directing that the responsible officials of these departments and agencies will appear in the court on the next date of hearing.
The bench directed the office to send copies of these orders to the CEOs of all the cantonment boards, DHA administrator, chairpersons of the KPT, Pakistan Railways, KWSB and DGs of MDA and LDA for its compliance. The hearing was adjourned for a month.