Land Use, Jurisdiction, Constitutional, Standing, Property, Inspections, Administrative, Evidence, Permits
The Supreme Court has ordered a wholesale giant in Karachi to close down its huge commercial outlet in the Lines Area in three months and restore the 4.9 acres of land on which the structure was built to its original status of a playground. The court had taken suo motu notice of the matter on the basis of an article published in Dawn. The government, the AWT and Makro-Habib relied on the Dec 19, 2002, deed whereby the former president had granted lease of the land to the AWT for 90 years at the annual rent of Rs6,020. On July 31, 2006, the AWT transferred the land to Makro-Habib by way of sub-lease for an initial term of 30 years after receiving an advance rent of Rs100 million based on a variable annual amount of at least Rs17.5 million and a maximum equivalent to one per cent of the annual turnover of the outlet. The court said the AWT, which was also an NGO, had been granted the government land in a wholly opaque and non-transparent manner without any regard to financial interests of the government and without an open invitation to bidders, which could not be treated as a legitimate and permissible exercise of executive powers. It said the AWT had been set up for a laudable objective of welfare of serving and retired personnel of the armed forces and their families, but it must be achieved through permissible means and not at the expense of the state exchequer or the public at large. The court cancelled the lease granted in 2002 in favour of the AWT and also sub-lease of the land to Makro-Habib in July 2006 and ordered the city government to develop and maintain the land as a playground or use it for any other purpose permissible under the law. The authorities concerned were also ordered not to grant new licenses in the catchment area or to renew old ones referred to in a schedule, without the prior approval of Court.