ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court yesterday dismissed an appeal filed by Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) against Sindh High Court’s judgment and imposed Rs0.1 million fine on the Board for wasting its time.

The apex court was hearing an appeal of the ETPB against the Sindh High Court judgment regarding a piece of land on which a Hindu temple was constructed in Khipro, Mirpurkhas, Sindh.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Jawwad S Khawaja ruled, “The minorities have right to establish their places of worship and it is the State’s main responsibility to protect them.”

The court in its written order noted, “The ETPB had committed violation of minorities’ fundamental rights and wrongly used its jurisdiction over the land of Hindus living in Khipro.”

Four Hindu families have been living on 398 acres land in Khipro area of Mirpurkhas in Sindh before partition and instead of migrating to India they constructed Khori Darbar, Samadi and used rest of 398 acres land for agricultural purposes and spent its income on welfare of Hindus and also the Muslims living on it.

The ETPB in view of a law passed in 1975 but issued in 1971 took control of the Hindu land in 1973. The court questioned how a notification of law, which was passed in 1975, could be issued in 1971.

Expressing annoyance, the bench observed that civil and high courts had dismissed the petitions of ETPB and the Board again filed an appeal in the apex court ‘thus wasted time of the courts, therefore, Rs0.1 million fine be imposed on it.’

The Sindh High Court had given judgment in favour of Hindu welfare society.

The court inquired from the ETPB counsel whether any Hindu from that area in Khipro had migrated to India. He replied ‘no’. Upon that Justice Jawwad asked how then the ETPB could claim it, adding the Evacuee Trust had no authority to take possession of that land as the Hindus families were living on it before the partition.

Justice Dost Muhammad remarked that if people were living on a piece of land how the ETPB considered it ownerless.

He said Quaid-e-Azam in the 1st Constituent Assembly had set up two committees, one on human rights and minorities and other on constitutional issue. “It means how much Quaid-e-Azam cared for the minority rights.

The court, therefore, dismissed the appeal and imposed Rs0.1 million fine on the ETPB. The court said that the copy of the court order be sent to the federation and the Ministry of Interfaith Harmony.