SC rejects Bahria Town’s offer of Rs405bn for Malir land

Updated February 15, 2019

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Court also says it was not restraining the National Accountability Bureau from proceeding against Bahria Town. — File photo
Court also says it was not restraining the National Accountability Bureau from proceeding against Bahria Town. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd on Thursday again increased its offer to Rs405 billion from earlier Rs358bn for the lands it possesses in Malir district of Karachi, to be paid in 12 years.

“Neither the offer amount nor the period of payments appears to be exciting,” said Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed while heading a three-judge Supreme Court bench, and postponed further proceedings for Feb 28.

The court had taken up implementation of its May 4, 2018 judgement which held that the land grant to the Malir Development Autho­rity (MDA) by the Sindh government, its exchange with the land of the private land developers — Bahria Town — and anything done under the provisions of the Colonisation of Government Land Act 1912 by the provincial government was illegal.

The land was granted to the MDA for launching an incremental housing sch­eme, but instead of doing so, the authority exchanged it with the Bahria Town which launched a scheme of its own, the judgement had held.

The court had asked senior lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar, representing real estate tycoon Malik Riaz, to ask his client not to take the apex court other than seriously otherwise the court would not take him seriously.

On Thursday, the court also said it was not restraining the National Accountability Bureau from proceeding against the Bahria Town when Prosecutor General of the bureau Syed Asghar Haider told the court that the executive board of NAB had approved filing of a reference against the Bahria Town, which would be sent to the Karachi office within a week. “After this we will move forward,” the prosecutor general said, adding that four more references would follow.

The counsel argued that keeping in view the observations of Justice Faisal Arab, a member of the SC bench, the Bahria Town was willing to offer to purchase 16,896 acres of land in Malir district for Rs405bn on the assumption that the saleable area was not more than 45 per cent of the entire land.

The counsel explained that Justice Arab, in his separate note on the May 4 judgement, had calculated that the profits the developer could have made from the sale of 7,675 acres of land was Rs225bn whereas the profit which could have been made by the MDA was to the tune of Rs135bn.

This calculation of Justice Arab was based on the assumption that 60pc cent of the land was saleable whereas 40pc was not saleable since it was to be used for amenities like road network, the lawyer said.

About the payment schedule, Ali Zafar said that the Bahria Town had already paid over Rs14bn which was lying with the court. “This amount should be adjusted against the payment of Rs405bn while the remaining amount would be payable in 12 years in instalments of Rs2bn per month for the first six years and Rs3bn per year for the remaining six years,” he said.

Alternatively the developer could pay half the amount to the Sindh government and build and develop projects like desalination plant, sewerage treatment plant, Blue Line Rapid Bus Transit, improvement of roads and schools, Malir Expressway, renovation or up-gradation of one or two main hospitals, of value equivalent to the remaining amount, the lawyer said. This amount was enough to change the scenario of Karachi, he added.

But the court told Mr Zafar that he should not get the impression that the Rs405bn offer was accepted by the court, adding that the delayed payment would reduce the net value of the money.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar observed that the Bahria Town was not offering any immediate payment since it asked the court to adjust Rs14bn and that the rest of the money would be paid in 12 years.

“You should remember that the court and the Bahria Town are not sitting on a negotiating table,” Justice Saeed told the lawyer, adding that the sun was setting in the twilight zone and that the destiny was charged against the Bahria Town.

At this Mr Zafar requested the court to guide the developer what was the possible calculation.

“We have a feeling that the sand under your feet is slipping away rather has gone,” Justice Saeed said, adding that it was not his headache to suggest the use of the money and that it should be left with the provincial government to spend it on whichever way it chose.

Since the court was not satisfied with the proposal and required the counsel to revise it, Mr Zafar said that he would come up with a fresh offer after revisiting the Rs405bn offer.

Senior counsel Khawaja Tariq Raheem also assured the court that the fresh proposal would be in accordance with the expectation of the Supreme Court.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2019