SHC orders conversion of Mohatta Palace into medical college

Maqbool AhmedStaff Reporter

13th Oct, 2021. 08:22 pm

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday indicated that the half a century old legal dispute over the estate of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s sister Fatima Jinnah may end after all the parties agreed to establish a medical and dental college at the Mohatta Palace.

SHC issued the directions after all parties agreed that the college be built on the premises of Qasr-e-Fatima, commonly known as Mohatta Palace, as per the wish of Shireen Jinnah, another sister of Quaid-e-Azam on .

Justice Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan with the consent of the parties suggested names of Dr Abdul Bari Khan, Dr Adeeb Rizvi, Justice (retired) Sarmad Jalal Osmani and Justice (retired) Muhammad Faheem Siddiqui and the plaintiff as the trustees to establish the medical college. It added that the college is established without disturbing or damaging the heritage value of Qasr-e-Fatima.

The court made it clear that the name of the trustee would be included with their approval. It added that the counsel of all the parties would approach the people for their inclusion as trustees.

The court directed the official assignee to prepare an inventory of items and articles present on the premises in a report to the court on the next hearing on November 1.

The court held that the names of all the legal heirs of Fatima Jinnah would be included on a plaque to be displayed in the medical college.

Initially, the suit for administration was instituted on October 29, 1970, by Hussein Ali Walji, nephew of Fatima Jinnah. Later, Shireen Jinnah also initiated proceedings of inheritance for obtaining her share in Fatima Jinnah’s estate which includes moveable and immovable property, jewellery, shares and cash.

In 1979, Shireen Jinnah purportedly formed a trust for establishing a medical college in the premises of Qasr-e-Fatima commonly known as Mohatta Palace. The institution of the trust namely Shireen Jinnah Charitable Trust (SJCT) was also contested by Hussein Ali’s successors. The current plaintiff in the administration suit Nazish Amir Ali Walji is the grandson of Hussein Ali Walji.

Khawaja Shamsul Islam, advocate for the plaintiff, during an earlier hearing, had drawn the court’s attention towards an order passed on April 20, 2018. In the order counsel for SJCT, Yawar Farooqui had filed a statement with a copy of the Declaration of Trust executed on March 3, 1979

Islam pointed out that patent anomalies were floating on the surface of the said document.  According to him, six trustees had been named in the said declaration but only three trustees, Ibadatyar Khan, Dr Shareef and Dr Arif-ur-Rehman Alvi, had signed. Therefore, the very legitimacy of that declaration is shrouded in mystery.

“Even if all such blatant irregularities are ignored and the document is considered for whatever its worth is, one does not fail to observe that the very purpose of creation of the trust was to establish a most modern medical college exclusively for girls with an attached hospital for free treatment of poor persons in sickness and distress,” contended the lawyer. The trustees had agreed to act as members of the committee of management of the said college and hospital as well, he added.

The counsel claimed through the said declaration the trustees took overall cash, shares, jewellery, assets and other movable and immovable properties of the Shireen Jinnah including the Qasr-e-Fatima (formerly known as Mohatta Palace). He further alleged that without giving any account of these assets, they have failed to establish any such hospital or college which the declaration required to be made in the name of “Shireen Jinnah Girls Medical College”.

The lawyer also drew the court’s attention to an annexure, describing properties left by the deceased Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, for which the suit for administration was filed on October 29, 1970. He added that these properties were allegedly through the said trust declaration was handed out by Shireen Jinnah to the trustees.

Counsel once again stated that the trustees have failed to give any account of these properties.

The court noted that a perusal of the file also reflected that no such information has been provided to the court.

In 1993, the then Sindh government had paid Rs6.118 million as the tentative sale price of Qasr-e-Fatima and on Sindh government’s request the SHC, handed out the said property for repair and maintenance, only.

He stated that as evident from the various orders of the court, possession of the said property was only handed out to the provincial government for repair and maintenance and no title thereof was ever transferred in favour of the provincial government as well as no final determination of the sale price has been made.

To take monetary benefit, the provincial government counsel created a trust called “Mohatta Palace Gallery Trust” without any intimation to the court or without seeking any permission thereof,” he added.

According to the counsel, the said trust had been using the Mohatta Palace for gainful and promotional purposes to the extent that it had been used for wedding ceremonies and musical functions. Such actions bring the building to disrepute and tarnished its sentimental value as the historical place where Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, mother of the nation took her last breath, the counsel added.

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