SC to decide about commercial use of land allotted for defence installations

Maqbool Ahmed

24th Nov, 2021. 06:09 pm
Supreme Court Orders To Remove Encroachments From Govt's Land In Karachi

A file photo of the Supreme Court Karachi registry.

KARACHI: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday observed that any laws made in contravention of the Cantonment Boards Act 1924, the Cantonment Land Administration Rules 1937 and provisions of the Constitution need to be decided by the apex court.

The observations were made by a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, while hearing various applications against illegal constructions on amenity plots falling under the remits of various agencies including Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Karachi Development Authority (KDA) and cantonment boards (CBs).

During a hearing at the Karachi Registry of the Supreme Court, one of the applicants pointed out that various cantonment boards in the city had developed housing schemes on land allotted to them by the federal and provincial governments for defence installations.

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Another applicant pointed out that on the land allotted for Central Ordinance Depot, housing schemes had been developed, and shopping malls and cineplex had been constructed after erecting walls around the land.

The applicant submitted that a portion of the wall which was ordered to be demolished by the apex court had not been demolished as yet rather the wall had been extended further and shops and banks branches had been opened nearby.

When a director of military lands was confronted by Justice Ijaz on how the land was being used for commercial, the director could not give a satisfactory reply.

Justice Ahsan observed that land allotted for defence installation would always be used for the purpose of defence installations and if the need for defence installations extinguished the land would be surrendered to the government.

The bench while issuing notices to the attorney general, advocate general Sindh, cantonment executive officers (CEOs) of all boards of Karachi and secretary defence for November 26 observed that Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force were allotted land for defence purposes that had been progressively allotted, leased and transferred by cantonment boards to defence forces personnel for their own personal use and the land was being used for housing and commercial purpose.

The bench further observed that land allotted to cantonment boards by the federal and provincial governments for defence installations were meant to be used for that purpose and the very nature of the land could not be changed as it was apparently in direct contravention of the Cantonment Act 1924, the Cantonment Land Administration Rules 1937 and various provision of the Constitution.

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The bench directed the secretary defence to be present in the court on November 26 to explain the legal basis for change in the status of the land.

The bench also ordered director-general KDA and administrator KMC to remove encroachments from all parks and playgrounds within their respective remits and restore them with proper furniture and facilities for the people’s use without charging any fee from them.

Earlier the bench was apprised by an applicant that Kashmir Sports Complex comprising of different parks and sports grounds was in very bad shape and people were charged fee for entering the parks there.

Karachi Cooperative Housing Society

The bench while hearing application regarding illegal construction in parks in Karachi Cooperative Housing Society and Bahadur Yar Jang Society issued notice to chairmen and secretaries to those societies and directed that the notices be served to them through station house officers (SHOs) of their respective police stations.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed while inspecting a photograph of a multistorey apartment building provided to the bench by the applicant observed that provincial minister Saeed Ghani had stated that he would not let such illegal buildings be demolished and would rather resign.

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Justice Gulzar asked from AG Sindh where Saeed Ghani was and ordered to summon him immediately.

Saeed Ghani later reached the court but the matter relating to him could not be picked up.

Jheel Park land

Administrator KMC Murtaza Wahab undertook before the apex court that he would seek technical experts help to find whether there was a way of restoring small lakes that existed some decades ago in and around the current Jheel Park in the vicinity of Tariq Road.

Hearing an application regarding encroachment on the park’s land, the chief justice wondered where four lakes, one of them known as Khoon Jheel, which once was a hallmark of serenity and beauty of the area, had disappeared.

The administrator submitted that the lakes apparently went dry due to declining water table and were later landfilled.

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Illegal constructions along Jam Sadiq Bridge

DG KDA Asif Memon gave undertaking to the court for removing all illegally constructed structures along Jam Sadiq Bridge near Korangi Industrial Area including those hindering flow of Malir River.

The bench noted that several illegal structures had been raised along Jam Sadiq Bridge on land meant for public purpose and some of those structures were hindering the flow of Malir River.

The DG KDA submitted that after devolution of the Planning and Urban Design Department from Sindh Building Control Authority to KDA, the Authority was in the position to take action against such illegal structures.

Grant of commercial lease

The bench also issued notice to AG Sindh on an application regarding a grant of commercial lease of several acres land in Deh Joreji, District Malir, to a private person Nisar Ahmed at 5,000 rupees per acre.

The bench noted with concern that despite a court order of August 2019 allowing lease of government land for “State Purpose” only the land was leased to a private person against challans of 5,92,000 rupees. The bench asked the AG to explain on the next hearing how the challans were issued in presence of ban the apex court had imposed on lease of government land in September 2012.