Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday appeared unimpressed by Malik Riaz's charity work — which the property tycoon mentioned more than once during a hearing connected to Bahria Town Karachi — pointing out that charity does not make up for occupying land illegally.
"Charity work cannot be done by bribing people," Justice Nisar pointedly said to Riaz, who swore that he had never bribed anyone.
Riaz tried to argue that he had built Bahria Town Karachi so that "Pakistan can grow from a third world country to a first world country".
"We planned construction projects in the areas where people did not go [due to poor security]," he said, directing the court's attention towards the fact that the housing society project also included the "world's third largest mosque", as well as an old-age home, a zoo, schools, and other facilities.
Justice Nisar, however, told Riaz that the court could not "allow [Riaz] to continue with illegal ventures just because of his religious projects".
"You cannot Illegally occupy land and then do charity," he added.
'Violation of court order'
Riaz had appeared before the Supreme Court in a case pertaining to Bahria Town Karachi issuing notices to people who have already been allotted plots, commercial buildings or build-up units to make payments to a new bank account set up by the housing society.
Earlier today, the chief justice had barred the housing society from collecting any payments, saying that the administration of Bahria Town Karachi had violated court orders by opening up a separate bank account to collect outstanding payments.
Last month, the apex court had ordered the additional registrar of the Supreme Court's Karachi registry to open a special account facilitating the deposit of the outstanding amount against allotments through pay orders, demand drafts or cross-cheques.
As a huge amount of money on account of allotment of plots, build-up units and commercial buildings was still outstanding against the allottees, some makeshift arrangement should be made to facilitate the recovery and secure it, the judgement had stated. Bahria Town Karachi was also barred from selling or allotting land by the top court after declaring that the land for the project was acquired illegally.
However, Riaz's counsel Aitzaz Ahsan on Tuesday denied that the housing society had issued notices to anyone.
Riaz, who appeared in court after being summoned by the CJP, vowed that he would obey court orders, but urged Justice Nisar not to pass a verdict that would "affect employees".
The top judge then ordered Riaz to deposit Rs20 billion in court, saying that the money had to be "returned to the nation".
Read more: Bahria Town — Greed unlimited
The property tycoon then pleaded the court to reduce the amount to Rs5 billion "in God's name".
When Justice Nisar told him to mortgage his 100 kanal house, Riaz claimed that he had no property and the house he lived in belonged to his wife.
The CJP then reduced the amount to Rs10 billion. However, Riaz continued to invoke God and plead that the court reduce the amount to Rs5 billion.
Justice Nisar subsequently ordered Riaz to deposit Rs5 billion in the next hearing, along with his property documents and an undertaking that he will not sell any of his assets before the court issues a verdict.
The top judge also directed him not to initiate any new Bahria Town project. The hearing of the case was adjourned until June 27.
Construction of multi-storeyed buildings
Riaz also urged the court to order the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to halt its investigation until the top court passes a verdict. He said that due to the case in NAB, property prices had gone down due to which several people, who had invested in the project, were suffering.
The chief justice had expressed anger at Bahria Town Karachi's project of a multi-storey building in Clifton, saying that the apex court had ruled against it.
Acting on SC's orders, last year the Sindh Building Control Authority had declared it illegal to build multi-storey and high-rise buildings "beyond ground plus two floors forthwith in Karachi".
However, Riaz's counsel Aitzaz Ahsan argued that the ban on high-rise buildings had been imposed after the construction was completed.
The argument was dismissed by the chief justice, who said that the construction was still underway and NAB was already pursuing a case regarding the violation. He told Ahsan to advise his client to appear before NAB.