Supreme Court of Pakistan today once again turned down 315 billion rupees offer of Bahria Town for regularization of illegal land in Karachi. Bahria Town made this offer in today’s hearing, but the apex court rejected it while directing the legal counsel of Bahria Town to submit revised offer. It means, apex court wants Bahria Town to pay more for Karachi’s land.
Last week Bahria Town had offered to deposit Rs 250 billion in the apex court’s dam fund to settle legal proceedings for illegally acquiring land for its projects in Karachi, Islamabad and Murree, but the Supreme Court of Pakistan turned down this massive offer. Today the Bahria Town submitted the revised offer of 315 billion rupees just for Karachi’s land, but the supreme court turned down it, deeming it much below the value of the land.
A three-judge implementation bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, gave remarks today while hearing the case pertaining to the implementation of the May 4, 2018 Supreme Court verdict against the Bahria Town Karachi project. The implementation bench had been formed after the court had discarded review petitions filed against its May 4,2018 judgement.
In the May 4 judgment, the court had declared that the grant of land to the Malir Development Authority (MDA) and its subsequent swap with land owned by Bahria Town was illegal and void. It had also directed NAB to continue its probe into the business practices employed by the developer.
Today, while terming the housing society’s settlement offer to regularise the land it is currently in possession of ‘unsatisfactory’, the bench asked Bahria Town to reconsider it.
Justice Azmat Saeed stated that in 2014, the court had set Rs225bn as the amount to be paid in order to legalise 7,000 acres of land. If one marks that up by 40 per cent [to account for inflation, other factors], the number comes up to Rs315b.
Then Ali Zafar, lawyer of Bahria Town said that his client is ready to pay Rs315b in return for the legalisation of [all] 16,896 acres of land that are disputed and that Bahria Town cannot pay more than Rs350 billion.
The Supreme Court, however, turned down this offer and said that the
Rs 315 billion is the price that Bahria Town should pay for 7,068 acres of land only while BT’s request to settle all 16,896 acres of land, to the amount the Supreme Court had fined it (Rs225bn) for possessing 7,000 acres in 2014 is unjustified.
Justice Azmat said: “We’re not haggling over tomatoes here”.
To this, the lawyer said his client was in a fix and was simply trying to find a way out of the matter. The defendant’s lawyer then made a final offer of Rs358b.
However, the bench said it would hear the federal and Sindh governments as well as NAB on the matter before ruling on it in the next hearing.
During the proceedings, the court also expressed displeasure on the difference in land allocation maps presented to it by the Surveyor General of Pakistan (SGP), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Bahria Town. The SGP was ordered to submit a report on the matter within two weeks.
Worth to note is that last week the counsel of Bahrian Town first offered 200 billion rupees to settle this case and then increased the offer to 250 billion rupees when the supreme court rejected the offer. The implementation bench of the Supreme Court took up for hearing a case pertaining to the implementation of May 4, SC verdict against Bahria Town in which the apex court had barred Bahria Town Karachi from selling any plot or constructed apartment in the housing scheme on the outskirts of the port city, declaring the grant of land to the Malir Development Authority and its exchange with the land of the private land developers illegal.
Justice Azmat Saeed, the head of three-member bench, reminded the counsel that a fine of Rs285 billion had been imposed on Bahria Town in 2004 and if fine money is increased by 40 per cent, the payable amount will surge to 300 billion rupees. Justice Saeed observed that three separate verdicts had been passed against Bahria Town, so it should make separate and reasonable offers for its projects in Karachi, Islamabad and Murree.
Justice Saeed Azmat rejected both offers _ 200 billion and 250 billion rupees by Bahria Town and said that the court can ask the National Accountability Bureau to file a reference in this case. However, the Bahria Town counsel has sought one week’s time to file a reply. Justice Saeed granted the plea and directed Bahria Town to submit written offers in all the three cases.