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Legal fight over a house in Karachi leads to courtroom drama

March 27, 2019
 

A tenant dispossession case led to movie-like courtroom drama at the Supreme Court’s Karachi Registry on Wednesday.

An elderly man in crutches wearing a dhoti and kameez stood in one corner of the courtroom while a man in a black suit stood beside him. The men have the same name — Muhammad Ashraf.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Munib Akhtar heard their years-old case on Wednesday.

Nine people from the Zakat and Ushr department told them that the federal government had ordered 406 houses for employees of the Zakat department. However, only 136 houses were built.

Related: Karachi anti-encroachment operation should continue, orders the Supreme Court

We feared the properties would be usurped, said the former chairperson of the zakat committee.

A house located in Orangi Town was given to the older Muhammad Ashraf in 1998. However, the family of the second Muhammad Ashraf said that the house belonged to them and dispossessed the old man and his family.

The man then filed a petition in the court. The trial court’s decision was in favour of the first owner. This verdict was challenged in the high court. The first appeal was dismissed and the second appeal ruled in the second family’s favour.  The second verdict of the high court was then challenged by the first Muhammad Ashraf.

Justice Akhtar asked the respondent if had read the first verdict of the high court. When he responded in negative, the judge said that he will be “thrown out” of the court if he fails to read the judgment.

We have to decide who dispossessed who and who was affected in this case, remarked Justice Ahmed.

On this, the first Ashraf, who couldn’t even stand properly, interjected and said that the respondents have beaten him up. “They hit me and my daughters. I was even declared an absconder,” he said.

Justice Ahmed told him to only answer the questions that are asked of him.

Related: SHC wants to know why businesses are being run in residential buildings despite its orders

The petitioner stayed quiet for a few minutes and then accused the other Muhammad Ashraf of working in collusion with the police. “The police officers kept taking money from me,” he said. The judge again told him to maintain courtroom decorum and refrain from making such statements.

After submitting relevant court documents, the bench ruled in favour of the petitioner, the older Muhammad Ashraf. The burden of proof lies on the respondent, said Justice Ahmed.

The court set aside the second verdict of the high court and told the people named in case to appear before the high court on April 23. “The high court will decide on the case again,” the court ruled.

The old man, however, did not seem happy. “I am tired of going to the court again and again. I have daughters to look after. I can’t even walk. I have been to trial court and high court. I want justice.”

Justice Ahmed told him that the court has ruled in his favour. “What are you so upset about?”

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