• Implementation bench says developer will be charged with contempt if May 4 verdict violated
• Bans ads of the housing scheme in media
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a proposal of Messrs Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd for implementation of its verdict and asked the developer to come up with a workable solution by Nov 22 keeping in view current market prices and not those of 2014.
At the same time, a three-judge implementation bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, cautioned counsel for Bahria Town Barrister Ali Zafar that the court would hold the developer for contempt of court in case of any violation of the May 4 judgement, reminding him that the proceedings would not be allowed to linger on till 2019.
The apex court also barred Bahria Town from issuing advertisements to print and electronic media regarding the sale of plots in Bahria Town Karachi.
The court observed that time was not on the side of Messrs Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd as the May 4 verdict was against the developer and therefore some workable solution must be furnished in the court as early as possible. The judgement concerns cases involving grant of 9,385 acres of land in 43 Dehs, about nine kilometres from Toll Plaza on the Karachi-Hyderabad Superhighway, consolidated by the Malir Development Authority (MDA) and handed over to the Bahria Town in 2015.
In its May 4 decision, the SC had held that the grant of land to the MDA by the Sindh government, its exchange with the land of the private land developer — Messrs Bahria Town — and anything done under the provisions of Colonisation of Government Land Act, 1912 by the Sindh government as illegal, void ab initio and as such of no legal existence.
The land was granted for launch of incremental housing scheme, but the MDA exchanged it with Bahria Town, the judgement held. The MDA was created under the Malir Development Authority Act 1993 for the purpose of development of certain areas of Karachi.
The counsel argued that he wanted to present the details of a new proposal before the apex court but the court said the fresh proposal should be developed keeping in view the market price of 2018 and not that of 2014. However, the developer may be entitled to any concession if required legally, the SC observed.
Senior counsel Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, also representing Bahria Town, objected to the observation, arguing that the court had locked the case by fixing the prices to the level of 2018. He explained that the developer had invested over Rs500 billion to develop the housing scheme in the name of Bahria Town whereas Rs213 billion was still outstanding or due in the shape of instalments.
Earlier on Oct 11, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, had formed the implementation bench after the Bahria Town Karachi withdrew its petition in which it had sought review of the May 4 verdict, barring the developer from selling plots or constructed apartments in the area.
Referring to the deposit of Rs5 billion by Bahria Town in the Supreme Court, the bench said the amount would continue to be parked at the apex court and its fate would be decided on the next date of hearing, which was Nov 22.
While pointing towards Advocate General Salman Talibuddin, Justice Saeed observed that the Sindh government should cooperate with the National Accountability Bureau inquiry in the matter. “The land belongs to the people of Sindh,” Justice Saeed observed, adding implementation of the verdict in fair and equitable manner would be in the best interest of the Sindh government.
At the previous hearing, the court had ordered prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Syed Asghar Haider to continue with the investigations that it had initiated but made it clear that the court would neither monitor its investigations nor issue any directions lest it caused prejudice to the parties concern.
The court also sought an affidavit from the developer, which should be given by someone at the top level, with an assurance to the apex court that no violation of the May 4 judgement had been committed.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018