Pakistan’s SC stops the demolition of Hindu’s Dharam Shala

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Supreme Court has directed the local administration of Karachi to stop the demolition of Hindu’s Dharam Shala, located in Karachi, and the process of leasing out to raise a new building.

The top court also directed the government to issue a grant of further Rs.14.994 million to the One-man Commission constituted under the Supreme Court judgment in a case regarding minorities’ rights.

Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed issued a five-page written order in a case regarding the implementation of a 2014 judgment on minorities’ rights.

The top court has also issued notice to the Sindh Government’s Secretary Heritage with the direction of filing 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,” the top court ruled.

“No demolished material shall be allowed to be removed. This be done by the Commissioner Karachi today and report, in this respect, be submitted to the Office of the Supreme Court,” the top court further ruled.

During the hearing, Member of National Assembly and co-opted Member of the One-man Commission Dr Ramesh Kumar had informed the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed that the property on Plot No.32, NP-04 Napier Quarters Saddar Town-I, Karachi, measuring about 716 Sq. Yards was a Dharam Shala.

Kumar also placed a photograph of the said building before the court and contended that it was being demolished for making way for the new construction of a commercial plaza.

Kumar further stated that this property had been leased out by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) to some private person and he is in the process of demolishing the Dharam Shala and raising a new building.

Responding to this, Chairman ETPB submitted that the matter of Dharam Shala had been decided by Sindh High Court, wherein it allowed ETPB to lease it out, have it demolished and raised new construction.

The top court observed that such an order of the Sindh High Court was not before the Supreme Court. “The very photograph shows that the building is of Dharam Shala 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 top court however observed.

During the hearing, the One-man Commission had filed an application praying that the allocation of funds be made to it because earlier funds of Rs.7 million allocated to it vide order dated 19.02.2020, had already been spent and rather some liabilities have also accrued.

“In the application, the Commission has prayed for granting of an amount of Rs.14.994 million for clearance of outstanding liabilities and also for allocation of budget for the year 2021-2022.”

“Notice of this application be issued Ministry of Religious Affair and Interfaith Harmony and also to the Attorney General for Pakistan. In the meanwhile, the amount of Rs.14.994 million be disbursed to the Commission,” the top court said.

“For allocation of a new budget, let a proper response be filed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony. We, however, be noted that one man Commission shall ensure to maintain proper accounts for the money disbursed to it and spent by it for implementation of the Commission,” the top court ruled.

It was also contended during the hearing that the Commission created by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony was not per law for the reasons that it had been constituted through an executive order and no law to support such a Commission had been passed.

The top court directed the Ministry to ensure the Commission be constituted with proper support of the law.

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