KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the city administration to immediately remove all billboards and hoardings from public spaces and properties.
A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed also ordered Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani to examine the billboards installed at private properties and remove them if found to be dangerous for the public.
The chief justice criticised the provincial and local governments over flooded roads and streets and unhygienic condition of the city as rainwater has not yet been completely drained out.
He expressed displeasure over the performance of Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar and asked him when the tenure of the city government would complete.
The mayor said the tenure would end on Aug 30.
The chief justice expressed serious resentment over the performance of K-Electric as well as the prolonged loadshedding and said the chief executive officer and other officials of the power utility should be booked and prosecuted as a number of people had been killed due to electrocution during rains in the city.
The court also summoned the KE officials.
At the outset of hearing, the SC bench took notice of falling of a billboard near Metropole Hotel that left two motorcyclists injured a few days ago and asked about the details of the incident.
Advocate General for Sindh Salman Talibuddin informed the bench that two officials had been suspended and a case had been registered.
The chief justice came down hard on the SSP (south) when he said the nominated suspects had not yet been arrested and efforts were being made to apprehend them.
The chief justice observed that installation of billboards on buildings was very dangerous and put the lives of people at stake and asked the commissioner why such permissions were being granted.
The commissioner said these people sought permission on the pretext of private properties.
Karachi Circular Railway
The SC bench directed the provincial authorities to expedite work on underpasses, overhead bridges and fencing at the level crossings to ensure that the operation of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) was not obstructed because of road traffic.
In February, the court had directed the Pakistan Railways to revive and operate the KCR within six months and asked the provincial government to build necessary infrastructure like underpasses and overhead bridges at the level crossings.
On Monday, the railways secretary informed the bench that the KCR track had almost been cleared.
At this, the chief justice regretted that the time granted by the court was over, but the KCR had not yet been revived.
When the bench asked representatives of the Sindh government about the infrastructure, the provincial transport secretary said an amount of Rs5 billion had been allocated for the purpose and Rs3bn had been released.
The bench expressed resentment over the delay and asked why the tender had not been issued so far.
In March, the court was informed that the Pakistan Railways would revive the KCR at an estimated cost of Rs6bn within the stipulated period.
The bench had said the PR might continue its deliberation on upgrade of the KCR through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and on approval and sanctioning of such upgrade, but without obstructing the already functioning KCR.
The railways secretary had pointed out that there would be around 24 level crossings which would cause serious road traffic hazard and the Sindh government in consultation with the PR would address this issue and make plan to build underpass and overhead bridges for smooth flow of road traffic.
The SC bench granted a stay order against constructions on the premises of Karachi Gymkhana by suspending an order issued earlier by the Sindh High Court.
The SHC had allowed the gymkhana to continue construction work and restrained the commissioner and other authorities from intervening.
The SHC order was challenged in the apex court.
On Monday, the Sindh advocate general and the Karachi commissioner informed the SC bench that Karachi Gymkhana was included in the list of heritage sites and under the law no new constructions could be carried out on its premises.
Meanwhile, the commissioner office sent a letter to the Karachi Gymkhana president, asking him about the stay order granted by the Supreme Court. It asked the gymkhana management to immediately stop the construction work and warned that in case of failure, legal proceedings might be initiated against it in accordance with the law.
Demolition of building
The apex court directed the Karachi commissioner to complete the demolition of an under-construction building adjacent to an amusement park in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.
Earlier, the court had declared the lease of a two-acre plot, located on Rashid Minhas Road, illegal and directed the authorities concerned to demolish the under-construction residential-cum-commercial multi-storey Royal Park building.
On Monday, the commissioner submitted that they were demolishing the building floor wise and sought time to complete the task.
Meanwhile, the counsel for the affected allottees moved an application before the SC bench, seeking return of their money with interest. The court issued notices to the respondents for the next hearing.
Kidney Hill Park
The SC bench directed the Karachi commissioner to demolish a private school and houses and remove encroachments from Kidney Hill Park (Ahmed Ali Park) and submit a compliance report.
At a previous hearing, the court directed the mayor to remove the encroachments from the land of Kidney Hill Park and file a compliance report. The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had informed the SC bench that it had retrieved the 62-acre land of Kidney Hill Park and a PC-I of Rs950 million had been submitted to develop it as a model park.
However, a representative of Shehri-Citizens for Better Environment had contended that only 55 acres of the land had been retrieved and a private school and houses still existed on the remaining 7.5 acres.
The bench had directed the commissioner to remove the encroachments from the remaining land after due verification of the site and record.
Mall in Clifton
The apex court summoned the Karachi Development Authority director general along with record of allotment of a plot on which Com 3 Mall was constructed adjacent to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Park in Clifton.
Earlier, a representative of Shehri-Citizens for Better Environment had contended that the plot in question belonged to the park.
On Monday, a lawyer for the owner of the mall claimed that allotment of the plot was made in accordance with the law.
The Karachi commissioner informed the SC bench that illegal constructions and encroachments had been removed from Shahrah-i-Quaideen and greenbelt was restored.
Earlier, the apex court had ordered demolition of the building after it was pointed out that originally the plot did not exist on the map of the Sindh Muslim Cooperative Housing Society and it had been carved out from the service road amenity/drain land and other encroachments.