KARACHI: The controversy over the possession of the piece of land on which a shopping centre was built in the 1980s after the demolition of a Jewish synagogue, awaiting adjudication for lack of representation at the Sindh High Court, has arisen.
The Bene Israel Trust launched the case, pretending to be a Jewish social welfare body, by instituting a lawsuit back in 2014 in the SHC.
The appellant had asked the SHC to assume ownership of the property in the case so that it could keep the land of the house of worship.
Reportedly, the Bene Israeli community consisted of Jews who were historically found in Konkan, basically the Goa coastal area, and who had migrated to Karachi.
Muhammad Mahmood, the trust’s counsel, submitted in the case that there used to be a synagogue carrying Survey No. RC-3 in Ranchore Line Quarters, covering 1,190 square yards. Reportedly, it was built in 1893.
The trust argued that the synagogue was designed for the express purpose and intention of prayer, which is the right of members of a minority group. It was replaced by the Shopping Centre of Khurrum.
At one point, the petitioner argued that the estate had been legally acknowledged by the then Court of the Judicial Commissioner of Sindh and declared that one of the last known remaining members of the Jewish community, Ephraim Joseph, will administer the trust’s property and run its account at Grindlays Bank.
The trust reported that Mr Joseph had been appointed administrator of the property in question, but he died on 12 May 1987. His niece, R, after his death. Rachel Joseph, it added, became the last recognised group survivor in the region.
The trust alleged that Ms. Joseph went to an extra district and session judge’s court, asking her to name her the new administrator because she wanted to handle and run the synagogue’s property affairs. The court of the meetings had found in her favour and she was entitled to administer the house.
However, she subsequently permitted commercial development to take place in breach of the statute, the trust claimed.
The trust’s counsel claimed that Ms Rachel would have had to obtain a no-objection certificate from the federal government under Section 3(b) under the Defense of Communal Properties of Minorities Ordinance, 2001, if she were to sell or move the property belonging to a minority group.
It has been argued that the synagogue’s property must be secured and maintained under Section 2(b).
“A commercial shopping mall has been built on the synagogue property, which is a violation of the provisions of the decree providing for the protection and preservation of the places of worship of minority communities,” the trust said.
The trust asked the court to name its Nazir in order to take over the property in order to protect and maintain it.
To ensure that the money produced from it will be used for the good of the society, the court was ordered to order the Nazir to obtain the tenancy record.
In 2014, an interim stay order was passed by the SHC bench, ordering the parties to withhold the formation of a third-party interest in the subject land.
The command to remain is still in the area. However, Habib-ur-Rehman, the trust’s counsel, passed away last year, his partner, Ms. Zartaj, told Dawn. Since then, we have regularly sent notices to the counsel of the case, Muhammad Mahmood, requesting advice from his client about whether or not to investigate the matter further. He’s not showing up, however,’ she said.
There were some phone calls made by Dawn to Mr. Mahmood, but he did not respond.