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October 13, 2017



Govt’s focal person a no-show for second consecutive hearing

The Sindh High Court on Thursday directed the provincial government’s focal person a third time to appear before the court and assist it regarding implementation of the plan proposed for the government to enhance security of educational institutions.

The court was hearing a petition of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), seeking directives for provincial authorities to increase security of educational institutes following the tragic attack on the Army Public School, in Peshawar, in December 2014; over 130 school children died in the attack.

The petition was filed so as to ensure that such a terrorist incident does not happen again. Petitioners’ counsel Faisal Siddiqui had submitted an action plan comprising suggestions with respect to measures the provincial government could take to ensure security of schools across the province.

The court had previously directed the focal person to assist it over the matter; he did not, however, appear before the court. Issuing a notice, the SHC directed the government official to appear before it on November 15.

The court was earlier informed by the provincial law officer that there are 81 schools across Sindh which were identified as the most sensitive with respect to security. The report stated that a summary was forwarded to the chief minister to acquire funds to raise boundary walls of school buildings.

Investigation of rape cases

The provincial law officer was asked to submit his reply on suggestions given by petitioners’ counsel for making investigation processes of rape and assault cases more effective.

Petitioners Kainat Soomro and others complained that the Supreme Court had directed the provincial government and other authorities to reform the procedures of investigating gang rape cases, but the directions of the apex court were not being complied with.

The faulty process of investigation results in rape survivors not getting justice, the petitioners maintained.

Citing the provincial police chief and health secretary as respondents in the case, the petitioners requested the court to direct them to take immediate steps to improve investigation of the cases. They further asked the court to direct the authorities to establish a Rape Crisis Cell in each district of the province so as to assist rape survivors in getting immediate medical, financial and legal assistance.

The provincial law officer sought time to go through the suggestions given by the petitioners’ counsel and formulate a response. The court granting time to the official adjourned the hearing; the date will be fixed by the office.

The chief secretary had earlier informed the court that all provincial government departments, including health, home, police and prosecution have been directed to implement SC’s guidelines vis-a-vis reforms in investigation of cases of rape and sexual assault of women.

The CS had held a meeting with the concerned authorities and discussed in detail issues related to rape cases; necessary directions were also reportedly issued to the departments to address the issue in light of the apex court’s guidelines.

Illegal conversion of plot

The SHC has directed the deputy controller for buildings of the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) to appear in person along with an approved building plan for a multi-storey building in Block-3 of PECHS.

The directives were issued on a lawsuit filed by Mohammad Saeed Shafiq and others against the conversion in status of the plot from residential to commercial.

The plaintiff’s counsel, Shakeel Ahmed, submitted that the SBCA, in violation of Karachi’s building and town planning rules, had allowed the conversion of a residential plot to commercial in a vicinity originally designed only for residential purposes.

He submitted that the authority had approved a building plan for the multi-storey commercial building on a 40-feet wide road which was not only dangerous but also violates the privacy of area residents.

The lawyer submitted that the plaintiffs have been residing in the area for the past 30 to 40 years and their houses are located opposite the plot. He said the status of the plot had been changed without inviting public objections or compliance with other mandatory provisions of the applicable laws.

Therefore, he contended, the commercial status of the plot was ab-initio illegal and in violation of the building by-laws. The counsel submitted that the official defendant, the Karachi Development Authority (KDA), despite knowing that the Karachi Cooperative Housing Society had leased out the plot only for a ground-plus-one project, kept forwarding the commercial plans for the multi-storey building to the SBCA.

He said that approval of such a building by the SBCA was based on misuse and violation of building and town planning regulations and the same were liable to be cancelled.

The lawyer added that the private owner was proceeding with the impugned construction and about to start booking of flats and shops with the intention to create third-party interest and get protection for what was an illegal and unlawful act.

The court was requested to declare the conversion of Plot No. 171-1-C, Block 3, PECHS from residential to commercial as unlawful and liable to be struck down.

The counsel of the state sought time to file comments from the KDA. The SHC single bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar directed the KDA to file comments and, in the meantime, also ordered the SBCA’s deputy controller of buildings to appear in person along with the approved building plan of the property in question on October 20.