The Sindh High Court on Friday restrained the Karachi Port Trust and other respondents from demolishing the structure of Shri Laxmi Narayan Mandir, a Hindu temple believed to have been constructed about 200 years ago at the Native Jetty Bridge.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam also appointed a Nazir of the court for inspection of the temple and directed him to submit his report after ascertaining the factual position of demolition and construction activity at the site within seven days.
The directions came on a constitutional petition filed by Kailash Wishram, a resident of the residential quarters on the temple premises, who impleaded the secretary of ports and shipping ministry, the chairman of the KPT, the SHO of the Jackson police station and a private company that ran a food court under the Jinnah Bridge as respondents.
The petitioner represented by Advocate Zain A. Jatoi submitted that he was a practising Hindu of a caste that was not given equal status by other members of the Hindu community.
He said that the Narayan Mandir was constructed much before the partition of the subcontinent and for a long time Hindus performed their religious rituals at the temple where access to seawater was one of the essential things to perform worship.
According to the Pakistan Hindu Council, the temple was constructed about 200 years ago and the festival of Raksha Bandhan (Nariyal Puja), Ganesh Chaturthi, ie birthday of Shri Ganesh Deva, and every new moon night is celebrated there.
It is a sacred place for performing death rituals, funerals and other religious rituals at the sea.
The petitioner’s counsel submitted that the private company, an endeavour in collaboration with the KPT, had started some construction work blocking the access to the seawater from the temple. He said the construction would threaten their place of worship and so also the right of the minority community at large.
Responding to a court query, the petitioner submitted that the construction was being raised at the behest of Mukesh Chawala, provincial minister of excise and taxation and member of the Hindu Panchayat.
The petitioner was directed by the bench to include the name of the MPA in the list of the respondents.
The court ordered that the temple, its staircase, boundary wall and corridors originally constructed may not be demolished.
The bench directed its office to place the matter before a bench hearing the matter of construction and property and adjourned the hearing for 10 days.