SHC issues notice to Metropolitan Commissioner over building fire

Petitioner wants law on fire in line with building rules

Our Correspondent March 27, 2019
Sindh High Court. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued notice to the Metropolitan Commissioner, seeking a reply on Tuesday on a petition pertaining to the fire that broke out in a 12-storey building in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, which claimed the lives of four people and injured several others.

A two-member bench, headed by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and comprising Justice Agha Faisal, heard the petition filed by Advocate Nadeem Sheikh, accusing the Sindh government of ruining the city. Sheikh said that a Rs500 million snorkel procured by the government was useless. He added that whoever wants to construct high-rise building, they do so in the absence of checks and balances. Building are often constructed without their building plans being approved, he said, adding that there are no emergency exit systems in these buildings.

The petitioner said that had the Pakistan Navy not participated in the rescue efforts, many more lives would have been lost. The petitioner requested that a new fire law be introduced in Sindh, which must be in line with building rules. No law regarding fire has been made after the inception of Pakistan. The absence of a law for the safety of property and lives of the public is a poor example, the petition stated.

Despite diverting the attention of the chief secretary, Karachi commissioner and KMC towards the matter in 2014, no measures were taken to address the issue. The court, issuing notice to Metropolitan Commissioner, sought reply on the petition. The court directed to make the building owner a party in the case as well and adjourned the hearing till April 16.

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Universities Amendment Act

The same bench also heard the petition against the Sindh Universities Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 and directed the counsel for Sindh government to submit a response within two weeks.

Justice Mazhar demanded an explanation as to how the law would disturb the education system. Irfan Aziz, the counsel for the petitioner, maintained that the Sindh Governor used to be the chancellor of the public universities in the province. But through the Act, all the authorities have been transferred to the Sindh Chief Minister. The universities and the schools in Sindh will be devastated, said Aziz.

Justice Mazhar asked the counsel what he thinks should now be done. We will take actions if the amendment violates the basic rights.

Sindh Additional Advocate-General Shabbir Shah maintained that the Act was not illegal. The court asked him to submit his statement in writing.

The petitioner, Pasban President Altaf Shakoor, had argued that 24 varsities have been made subordinate to the CM for political gains. He claimed that attempts were being made to close the doors of education on people living in urban areas.

The varsities hve been deprived of their autonomy. The bureaucrats will be appointed on eight out of 10 seats of syndicates.  The educational environment will be devastated and the varsities will turn into a hub of politics, he added.

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Safoora Goth incident

Another two-member bench of SHC, comprising Justice Aftab and Justice Amjad Ali, heard the appeals against the death sentences awarded by the military courts in Safoora Goth incident. The court sought response from the additional attorney-general on April 29.

Hashmat Habib, the counsel for the petitioners argued that the military courts had submitted response on Saad Aziz's application, but the responses for other applicants was still pending.

Each page of the military's answer has confidential written on it. According to the Army Rules, confidential documents cannot be used for general comprehension. "Either directives to remove the word confidential be issued or we will be allowed to submit a reply," maintained the counsel.

The military court had awarded death sentences against Aziz, Tahir Minhas, Azhar Ishrat, Hafiz Nasir and Asadur Rehman in several cases of terrorism including Safoora Goth tragedy.

The petition maintained that based on several allegations, the military court has awarded the death sentence to the petitioners. The details of the cases are not being shared with the families of the accused, it further read. The counsel appealed that a meeting of the families with the accused be arranged and implementation on the punishment be suspended. He also requested for giving a chance to the accused to file an appeal in light of the Supreme Court judgement.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2019.

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