Supreme Court to take up case on May 17
The Sindh High Court instructed Friday the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation to halt the anti-encroachment drive along the Orangi and Gujjar nullahs till the Supreme Court adjudicates on the case.
The court remarked, while hearing the petition against the drive, that they have to seek clarification from the Supreme Court about whether leased houses can be called “encroachments” or not.
Faisal Siddiqi, the lawyer of the petitioners, argued that the Supreme Court ordered the removal of encroachments in and around the nullahs.
The top court told the Sindh government to ensure the rehabilitation of the affectees, the court said in its order. The Karachi additional commissioner told the court that the government formed a policy to provide Rs15,000 per month rent to the affectees for two years and give them accommodation under the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme.
Siddiqi, however, argued the Supreme Court’s order did not mention anything about the occupants who were granted leases for 99 years under the Sindh Katchi Abadis Act, 1987.
He also said that the authorities have decided to widen the nullah by 30-feet but the Supreme Court did not allow did. The Supreme Court will hear the case on May 17 at Karachi Registry.
“As the matter is already sub-judice before the Supreme Court, we have no jurisdiction to pass any order for interpreting orders of the Supreme Court,” the high court said. The hearing has been adjourned till May 18.
The KMC and district administration began the anti-encroachment drive on February 25. Orangi and Gujjar nullahs are two of the three storm water drains that are being widened to ensure the smooth flow of rainwater.
In March, the residents of Karachi’s Orangi Town challenged the anti-encroachment drive along the nullah. Thirty-eight residents filed a petition in the Sindh High Court and said that they have been living in the area since the partition of Bangladesh, adding that they are ‘lawful’ and ‘legal’ owners of their houses.
The petitioners said they were given the lease under the Housing Scheme Act, 1987. They have connections to utilities such as electricity, gas, and water and pay bills.
On Thursday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah directed the local government to prepare a plan to overhaul and reconstruct all the distributaries of three major nullahs, Gujjar, Orangi, and Mahmoodabad in the long term.
In the short term, the plan is to properly clean the distributaries before the monsoon. The chief minister decided to widen the existing Gujjar and Orangi nullahs from 35 to 80 feet and 20 to 40 feet, respectively. Their beds will be dredged and sewer trunks would be laid along them to separate sewage and storm water.
An earlier version of the story said that the drive has been halted because of the Eid holidays. It has now been corrected to say that the stay has been given till Supreme Court adjudicates on the matter.