The Supreme Court has restrained the Karachi administration from demolishing a Hindu dharamshala and asked Sindh secretary heritage to file a report about the building. A dharamshala is a building devoted to religious or charitable purposes, especially a rest house for Hindu travellers.
A three-judge bench – led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed – issued this order on Friday while hearing a case regarding the implementation of a 2014 judgment on minorities’ rights.
During the hearing, Dr Ramesh Kumar – a co-opted member of a one-man commission on minorities – stated that the property on Plot No 32, NP-04 Napier Quarters at Saddar Town-I in Karachi – measuring about 716 square yards was a dharamshala.
He also placed before the court photographs of the building. He said the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) leased out that property to some private person, who is demolishing the Dharamshala to construct a commercial plaza.
Kumar said the ETPB chairman contended that the Sindh High Court (SHC) has allowed the ETPB to lease the place out, have it demolished and raise a new building there.
The Supreme Court, however, said such an order of the SHC was not before them.
"The very photograph apparently shows that the building is of dharamshala constructed in the year 1932, which can be read from the marble slab affixed on the building and must be a protected heritage building,” the SC said in a written order.
The court issued notice to Sindh secretary heritage, asking him to file a report regarding the building.
“In the meantime, no demolition activity of the said building shall be conducted by anyone and possession of the building and the land shall be taken over by the Commissioner Karachi, who shall manage the same and not allow any person to enter upon it.
"No demolished material shall be allowed to be removed. This [should] be done by the Commissioner Karachi today and [a] report, in this respect, be submitted to the Office of the Supreme Court," it said.
The order noted that the one-man commission has also filed an application with the request that it may be allocated more funds as earlier funds of Rs7 million allocated to it vide order dated 19.02.2020, have already been spent and rather some liabilities have also accrued.
In the application, the commission has requested for an amount of Rs.14.994 million for clearance of outstanding liabilities and also for allocation of budget for the year 2021-2022. The SC issued notice to the Ministry of Religious Affair and the Attorney General for Pakistan on this application.
"In the meanwhile, the amount of Rs.14.994 million be disbursed to the commission. For allocation of a new budget, let a proper response be filed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.
“[The] one-man commission shall ensure to maintain proper accounts for the money disbursed to it and spent by it for the purpose of implementation of the commission," said the order.