Begin shifting to New Sabzi Mandi, directs court

In January, 2020, the SHC vacated its stay on request of the administration but the traders again secured a stay


Z Ali January 09, 2021
Old Sabzi Mandi area. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI:

Breaking the stalemate between the authorities and the traders, the Sindh High Court ordered on Thursday the shifting of trade from the old vegetable and fruit market to the new one in a phased way.

The Hyderabad circuit bench, comprising Justice Salahuddin Panhwar and Justice Amjad Ali Sahito on directed the Hyderabad deputy commissioner to ensure that the new market becomes fully functional. "Needless to mention that shifting/establishment of the new Sabzi Mandi shall be carried out in a piecemeal manner as per facilities available," read the order. However, the court ordered that the process of auctioning fruits and vegetables should immediately be shifted to the new market. "… except the aggrieved persons [cases of multiple allotments], other shopkeepers shall be facilitated to shift/open their businesses at new Sabzi Mandi," the order added.

The bench gave 15 days to the relevant authorities for providing all the missing basic facilities which were identified in the report of the Hyderabad division commissioner. "Since the issue of shifting new Sabzi Mandi from one location to another location is purely administrative, however, no one shall suffer by any act of the administration which deprives lawful business of any person." The SHC directed the DC to avoid the creation of any nuisance in either of the two markets. The new market, located near Hala Naka adjacent to Akram Canal, was envisaged and later established with the aim to shift the old market near the railway station from that densely populated area. The Market Committee Hyderabad, a wing of the Sindh agriculture department, had acquired 73 acres land for the new one from 1982 to 1984.

The bookings had then started from 1996. In light of poor sanitation and traffic congestion problems in the old market, the district administration had tried to compel the traders to shift to the new market in 2019. However, the traders took the matter to the SHC which stayed the action. In January, 2020, the SHC vacated its stay on request of the administration but the traders again secured a stay. The court then appointed its additional registrar Syed Sabit Ali Shah as the inquiry commissioner on December 10, 2020. The report, submitted by Shah earlier this week, pointed out irregularities and delay in the new market's project which has hindered the relocation. Shah also put forward the request of the petitioners, as well as the allottees, for initiating a high level inquiry to fix blame for the wrongdoings and delay.

"Most of the petitioners/allottees are suffering due to matters of double allotment, non-delivery of the possessions by one, Shaukat Ali Mastoi who was the authorised officer of the Market Committee Hyderabad for about 20 years," the report stated, adding that the project is still incomplete. The report revealed that although no layout plan for the new market was approved by Hyderabad Development Authority till 2018, the Market Committee registered sale deeds, made allotments and issued possession letters in violation of the law. The inquiry commissioner named eight allottees who were given registered sale deeds by Mastoi. "There are some families which have been allotted 20 or more plots … it's a question that how such entire families legally deserve to be allotted the plots and due to such allotments the entitled persons have been deprived." Phase-I of the new market consists of 502 shops and the phase-II includes 1,675 shops besides seven auction platforms. Whereas the old Sabzi Mandi has a total of 435 shops and lacks the auction platform.

The petitioners Abdul Rehman and Asif Arain complained before the inquiry commissioner that the new market's infrastructure of shops, platforms, roads and drainage is still incomplete. They added that in comparison to the old market, where there are branches of four banks, no bank is operating in the new one. "… the original allottees of 1996 haven't been handed over the possession though various allottees have executed the registered sale deeds," claimed Rehman. The petitioners also blamed the Market Committee for failing to address drainage and sanitation problems in the old market from where it regularly collected the taxes.

Meanwhile, Additional Deputy Commissioner Tabraiz Mari, on behalf of the district administration, assured the inquiry commissioner that the authorities are ready to provide security and help establish a bank's branch if the traders agree to shift to the new market. Over the problem pertaining to possession and multiple allotments, Mari requested the court to form a committee to scrutinise the allotments. Shah, who was also ordered by the court to pen his own observations about the new and old markets, depicted a better condition of the new market. According to him, the new market spread over 73 acres against a maximum of eight acres size of the old. He stated that the problems like water supply, drainage, traffic and a lack of space do not exist in the new place.

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