LAHORE – The Supreme Court ordered the Punjab government to remove encroachment within one month from a place being used as graveyard by Hindu Balmiki community.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that encroachments around the graveyard were the violation of constitutional rights of minorities.

The bench was hearing a human rights case initiated on an application filed by Hindu Sidharth Sabha General Secretary of Amirnath and Heera Lal regarding illegal possession of a Hindu graveyard and construction of a building on it situation at Buduawa, GT Road.

The applicant submitted that land measure 3 kanal 4 marlas was being used as Balmiki graveyard even before partition but in 1984 a part of the land was taken over by the government and since then Hindus were not being permitted to use it as a burial place. He pointed out now local land mafia in connivance with government departments encroached on the land and trying to build building on it.

Lahore Development Authority Director General and District Coordination Officer appeared before the court and submitted that as per the entries of revenue record, the said land was owned by Punjab government but it was in possession of some illegal occupants. At a later stage 16 marlas of the said land was transferred to LDA by board of revenue. They further pointed out that three persons Faiz Rasool, Arif Qureshi and Ghulam Rasool were encroachers on said land. Collector Lahore Cantt had also held in an inquiry conducted by in 1986 that the said three persons had been violated sanctity of graveyard by erecting illegal structure on the land. The bench directed chief secretaries of all four provinces to submit detailed reports about graveyards of Balmiki Community and arrangements made for their upkeep to examine whether such constitutional violations were taken place in respective provinces.

The court also sought a detailed report from federal secretary religious affairs in this regard and issued notice to attorney general of Pakistan.

Appointing Supreme Court Bar Association President Yasin Azad as amicus curie, the bench also sought his assistance on the issue.

“Constitution has guaranteed rights of minorities and they are free to profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures. Articles 4, 9 and 36 of the Constitution mandated that the state shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interest of minorities,” the bench observed in its order.