Out of space: Land mafia leaves no room for courts, govt forced to rent premises

58 new posts for judges were created by the government to add to the strength of the judiciary in the province.

Naeem Sahoutara July 31, 2014

KARACHI: The ruthless land mafia that plagues Karachi has grown so strong that it even has the government on its knees, forcing it to rent out land to establish courts of law - the very institutions that are meant to ensure that the writ of the state is maintained.

One such example is the recent allocation of Rs5.8 million in the provincial judiciary’s annual budget to rent land for 58 new courts being established in eight districts. In June, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah had approved a summary from the law department to appoint 58 judicial officers and 672 ancillary staff for new courts.

According to the official notification, 51 of the posts were created for Karachi. They included 15 posts of additional district and session judges, 18 civil judges and as many senior civil judges. The new posts were created on the recommendation of the then chief justice of Sindh High Court, Justice Mushir Alam. The recommendations sought to enhance the strength of the district judiciary in the province by establishing 173 courts to ensure swift dispensation of justice.

Karachi in focus

“The recommendation particularly mentioned that the number of the courts be doubled in Karachi which is in the grip of heinous crimes such as targeted killings, extortion, land grabbing and terrorist activities,” explained an official of the high court, who wished to remain anonymous.

The deteriorating law and order situation in the city has been attributed as one of the prime factors that led to the province’s former top judge to demand additional courts.

Karachi, a port city with a population of nearly 20 million, currently has 175 subordinate courts. These include district and sessions courts, additional district and sessions courts, senior civil judges, assistant sessions courts and civil judges and judicial magistrates in the five districts.

Castles in the air

Based on the chief justice’s recommendation the provincial government had decided to create new posts and establish the courts in three phases. “It has created 58 judicial posts in the current fiscal year. Another 58 will be created in the next year while 73 will be created the following year,” an official of the law department told to The Express Tribune.

While the government has created the new posts, however, there is still no word about the space to house the new courts.

The answer was again provided by the Sindh High Court, who proposed to the government to allocate funds to acquire private premises on rent so that the new courts could be established and made functional until the state land was made available for the purpose.

The sources said that the high court has recently announced new posts for appointments, adding that the process would be completed within a couple of months. Once the appointments are finalised, the high court would task the district judge in each district to acquire premises on rent to run the new courts.

The government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party, which is ruling the province for the second consecutive tenure, had been promising to provide better facilities to the judiciary to dispense quick justice.

It had, however, miserably failed to provide the necessary facilities and resources to the recently created five anti-terrorism courts in Karachi until the Supreme Court snubbed the authorities and gave them a month’s deadline to do the same.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2014.

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