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Monday April 15, 2024

SHC directs culture secy to submit list of ancient properties in Sindh

By Jamal Khurshid
March 04, 2024
A view of facade of the Sindh High Court building in Karachi. — AFP/File
A view of facade of the Sindh High Court building in Karachi. — AFP/File

The Sindh High Court took exception to non-compliance with a court order with regard to the submission of ancient properties which were declared such under the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act 1904 and directed the culture secretary to submit a comprehensive report.

The direction came during hearing of the case on Friday with regard to the preservation of ancient and heritage sites of the province. A single bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar had directed the secretary culture to categorize the ancient properties having heritage and antiquities value with respect of their ownership by public-owned and private-owned persons.

The court observed that the secretary of the culture department filed an incomplete report and he failed to categorize the ancient properties, which were declared/notified in view of

Ancient Monuments Preservation Act 1904 up to 1947, antiquities relating to public properties declared under the Antiquities Act and Heritage Act 1994 and other heritage properties which are owned by private persons.

The court directed the secretary culture to file a list of ancient properties and monuments with a notification within a month and in case of failure the secretary culture shall be in attendance. It also directed the director antiquities to submit an interim report of committee, which was constituted to frame criteria for rehabilitation work and promotion of the ancient sites which have already been declared under the Ancient Monument Preservation Act 1904.

The court directed the secretary culture department to provide all logistical and financial support to the committee members, who shall also visit the sites of antiquities and ancient monuments relating to public property as per terms of reference.

The court was informed that despite the court directions and reminders of the culture department, the senior member board of revenue and deputy commissioners concerned have failed to mutate the properties owned by the culture department in the record of rights, though the initial requisite fee had been deposited.

The court directed the senior member board of revenue to ensure that the focal person of the revenue department appears before the court with a compliance report and failure in compliance will be considered as contempt of court.

It told the culture department to submit a progress report with regard to the rehabilitation and maintenance of the British-era Clock Towers/Ghanta Ghars in Sukkur, Hyderabad and Shikarpur having heritage value, including progress work on the Lansdowne Bridge Sukkur. The court observed that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has formed a tourism police force which is aimed at providing a peaceful, safe and tourism-friendly environment to tourists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The court observed that it is expected that the culture department will ensure that the tourism police force is also introduced here in Sindh for providing all the possible tourism-friendly environment.

It turned down the plaintiffs’ request for withdrawal of lawsuits and observed that the plaintiffs were claiming recovery of the amount pursuant to contracts awarded to them and thereafter the court ordered the site inspection reports, which have been brought on record.

The court observed that certain directions with regard to the criterion for contract awarding for antiquities and ancient monuments properties have been issued; therefore, the present proceedings have become public-interest litigations which cannot be withdrawn on the sweet will of the plaintiffs.

Chicken sellers plea

The SHC directed federal and provincial law officers to file comments on a petition filed by chicken meat sellers in different districts of the city against the challans issued by the deputy commissioners (DCs) to them under the Section 7 of the Sindh Essential Commodities Price Control and Prevention of Profiteering and Hoarding Act.

The petitioners’ counsel, Tariq Mansoor, submitted that exorbitant penalties had been imposed on the petitioners by the local administration without any notice or assigning any reasons.

Mansoor said the petitioners had not violated any law nor had they attempted to sell meat above the notified price. He challenged the vires of the essential commodities law.