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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its ruling on whether or not to accept a fresh offer by the Bahria Town (Pvt) Limited to settle a case pertaining to its Malir or Karachi Super Highway project in lieu of payment of Rs450 billion.

“Either you have something to celebrate or nothing to rejoice about,” observed Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed while postponing further proceedings for March 21, adding that “we believe the matter has run its course”.

On Tuesday, senior counsel Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, on behalf of Bahria Town, had put forth a proposal suggesting a total payment of Rs485bn as full and final settlement for all its three cases.

Of this amount, Rs440bn was to be earmarked for the 16,896-acre Malir or Karachi Super Highway project, Rs22bn for 5,472 kanals at Takht Pari Rakh (Rawalpindi) and Rs23bn for the 4,542 kanals of Sulkhtar and Manga land (Murree). The apex court would decide about two of the cases after dealing with the developer’s Malir project.

Counsel says total payment will be made in eight years

The court put off further proceedings after Advocate General for Sindh Salman Talibuddin, on behalf of the Sindh government, and Farooq H. Naek, representing the Malir Development Authority (MDA), said they had no objection to the offer made by the developer.

A three-judge bench of the court had taken up the implementation of its May 4, 2018 judgement in which it was held that grant of land to MDA by the Sindh government, its exchange with the land of Bahria Town and anything done under the provisions of the Colonisation of Government Land Act 1912 by the provincial government was illegal and “of no legal existence”.

The land was granted for launching an incremental housing project, but instead of launching such a scheme the MDA exchanged it with Bahria Town that launched a scheme of its own, the judgement had held.

The apex court clarified that it would recognise only the site plan of Bahria Town, Malir, identifying 16,896 acres in the district that had been signed both by the developer and the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission.

It also told the counsel that while putting forward an offer, he should bear in mind that the court was “not sitting on a negotiating table”.

The counsel explained that the total payment would be made in eight years and that the developer would make a down payment of Rs20bn that would include Rs10.75bn which had already been deposited with the apex court.

A sum of Rs2.25bn would be paid on a monthly basis for the first five years and the remaining amount would be paid during the subsequent three years.

The court said it would deal with the issue of securities in case of default of payments later.

When the counsel requested the bench to order transfer of the land’s title to Bahria Town, Justice Faisal Arab said the developer would have the power of attorney to sell and deal with the lands but the title could be transferred only when the entire payment had been made.

The counsel also said the amount the developer was paying should include all the taxes and other charges, but the court explained that the court could not rewrite the law.

When asked to comment, the advocate general for Sindh said “whatever is due under the law is due”.

The developer requested the court to order the National Accountability Bureau to close its investigations and also to refrain from proceeding further in such investigations for all times to come against the officials, officers and directors of Bahria Town.

The court, however, said this would depend on acceptance of the developer’s offer and if the proposal was rejected the law would take its course and the court would move on.

Justice Saeed reminded the counsel that Bahria Town had initially offered only Rs85bn for the Malir scheme. At this, the counsel requested the bench not to mention the amount.

During the hearing, a request was also made to allow the developer to advertise sale of land, but the court ignored the plea. In an earlier hearing, the court had barred the developer from issuing advertisements.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2019