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SC accepts Bahria Town Karachi's Rs460bn offer, halts NAB references

Updated March 21, 2019

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SC has restrained NAB from filing references against Bahria Town Karachi. — Bahria Town/File
SC has restrained NAB from filing references against Bahria Town Karachi. — Bahria Town/File

The Supreme Court on Thursday accepted Bahria Town Karachi's Rs460 billion offer for the lands it occupies in the Malir district of Karachi and restrained the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from filing references against it.

The Supreme Court last week had 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. Announcing its verdict today, the Supreme Court accepted the offer, which was raised to Rs460bn.

Bahria Town Karachi will have to pay the entire amount over seven years. In its ruling, the top court ordered Bahria Town Karachi to pay Rs25 billion by August this year. From September onward, it will have to pay monthly instalments of Rs2.25bn for the next three years. If the company fails to deposit two instalments, Bahria Town Karachi will be considered a defaulter.

Bahria Town Karachi: Greed unlimited

After three years, it will have to pay a four per cent markup in case of late instalments. The company will also be required to give a 99-year lease to everyone who purchased a plot in Bahria Town Karachi housing project and will mortgage parks, cinemas and other assets owned by it.

Bahria Town's counsel sought a period of seven and a half years to make the full payment, and also asked the court to allow the payments to be made to the Sindh government.

"If you want to make payments in seven and a half years then talk to NAB," replied Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed.

Sindh government, which had insisted during the entire course of the case that it did not incur any losses, told the court today that it should be the recipient of the funds that are to be obtained from the builder.

"The funds haven't come yet but squabbles have started already," Justice Saeed remarked. "We know where the money has to go."

The court further said that NAB would not file references against Bahria Town Karachi as long as the latter complies with the order.

Malir Development Authority's (MDA) counsel also requested the court to discard cases against Sindh government's officials.

"Do you want that references should not be filed against those who misused their authority?" Justice Faisal Arab asked.

"The matter has [only] been settled with Bahria Town," clarified Justice Saeed, adding that if NAB wants to file references against other officials, it can petition the court. "We will decide after hearing both the parties."

Once the amount is paid in full, the court will pass a decision regarding the ownership of the land in accordance with the law.

The money will be deposited in the Supreme Court which will then be distributed as per the law, the order said. Bahria Town Karachi's director has also been ordered to record a statement under oath regarding the payment.

Take a look: Land scams galore

Justice Saeed, while reserving the verdict, had observed that “the matter has run its course”.

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 Malir Development Authority (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 May 4 judgement had held.

The apex court had 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 had 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”.