SC terms Bahria Town's offer to pay Rs358b for Karachi land regularisation 'unsatisfactory'

January 22, 2019

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Judge asks how, if cost of legalising just 7,068 acres was set at Rs225bn in 2014, how could cost of 16,896 acres be Rs315bn in 2019? — File
Judge asks how, if cost of legalising just 7,068 acres was set at Rs225bn in 2014, how could cost of 16,896 acres be Rs315bn in 2019? — File

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that Bahria Town's offer to pay Rs358 billion for the legalisation of the housing society's Karachi projects is 'unsatisfactory'.

A three-judge implementation bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, issued the remark 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 judgement, 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.

"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," Justice Saeed noted.

"My client is ready to pay Rs315b in return for the legalisation of [all] 16,896 acres of land [that are disputed]. They cannot pay more than Rs350b," defence counsel Ali Zafar said in response.

But Justice Saeed dismissed this offer as ludicrous.

"Rs315b is the price [Bahria Town should pay] for just 7,068 acres of land," he noted, comparing Bahria Town's settlement offer for all 16,896 acres of land, to the amount the Supreme Court had fined it (Rs225bn) for possessing 7,000 acres in 2014.

"We're not haggling over tomatoes here," Justice Saeed fumed.

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.

The SGP told the court that Bahria Town is being untruthful about the matter of government land being used in its housing societies.

"Bahria Town's authorised dealer — Prism — is selling land in Karachi which is outside of the housing society's demarcation," the SGP said. Upon hearing this revelation, the court summoned the owner of Prism to court for the next hearing.

The deputy commissioner for Malir was also directed to regain control of all government land within two weeks, and then submit a report on the matter in court.

Addressing the deputy commissioner in court, Justice Saeed said, "This land was yours, you should have taken care of it. If you cannot protect government land, you should be ready to suffer NAB."