ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court said on Tuesday it intended to find a solution under the law in the cases relating to encroachment of forest and Shamlat lands by Messsers Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd in the areas of Rakh Takht Pari in Rawalpindi, and Sulkhtar and Manga in Murree.
But, at the same time, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed made it clear that the window of opportunity in the two Supreme Court judgements in these cases was limited since these were forest lands which had to be reverted to their original state.
Earlier on March 21, the apex court had accepted Rs460 billion offer made by Bahria Town for the land for its Super Highway (Karachi) project. https://www.dawn.com/news/1474734
Forest land encroached upon by Bahria Town has to be reverted to original status, apex court observes
The court had taken up the implementation case of the three judgements of May 4, 2018 relating to Bahria Town namely the Karachi project and Takht Pari and Murree lands.
“We are not going to accept any fait accompli,” Justice Saeed observed while issuing notices to the Punjab government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the Rakh Takht Pari case.
In the Murree case, the court also issued notices to the Environment Protection Authority of Punjab, saying the format of the case was much bigger.
When Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, representing Bahria Town, mentioned other housing societies which also had encroached upon forest lands in Rawalpindi, like the Korang Town Housing Society, Airport Housing Society, CBR society, Police Foundation, PWD Housing Society, Doctors Colony, Media Town, etc, Justice Saeed wondered why he was missing some other names.
At this Advocate Khawaja Tariq Raheem, also appearing on behalf of Bahria Town, said that the court was referring to the Defence Housing Authority.
The court asked Additional Advocate General (AAG) for Punjab Qasim Ali Nawaz Chowhan to ensure that representatives of the forest department and all allied departments should be present when the cases would again be taken up on May 14. The AAG also accused Bahria Town of squeezing the banks of the River Korang.
On May 4, the Supreme Court in a majority judgement had held that the area of Takht Pari — 6km away from Rawalpindi near G.T. Road — encompassed 2,210 acres and not 1,741 acres. Therefore the exchange of land between Bahria Town and the Punjab forest department and the attestation of mutations were based on erroneous assumption about the area.
Likewise, in the case relating to 4,542 kanals of Sulkhtar and Manga (Murree) land, the court had held the land came under the category of Shamlat land and could be used only for limited purposes.
In the Karachi case, Bahria Town furnished details of land given in exchange to the Malir Development Authority and securities and accounts. The developer told the court that it had furnished Rs1.37 billion, 30 per cent of the amount it had received, whereas Rs10bn had already been deposited in the account of the court.
The Supreme Court also asked Aitzaz Ahsan to change the personal guarantees, as directed earlier, in a week.
One of the counsel representing Bahria Town said its chairman was in the United Kingdom due to serious threats to his life after the amount he had to pay to the government had been revealed.
Meanwhile, Bahria Town also filed an application requesting that the case be disposed of as it was ready to settle the Takht Pari case by purchasing 684 acres or 5,472 kanals for Rs13.13bn in 60 quarterly instalments, the first instalment to be paid three months after the court accepted the offer.
The developer also requested the court to order ceasing of all on-going investigations by all agencies, including NAB, and also direct the agencies to refrain from further investigations.
It also requested for a directive to the Punjab government to provide assistance to ensure conducive atmosphere for normal business activity, saying these arrangements would also mean that no financial loss had been caused to the government.
The application said due to the development carried out by Bahria Town, the value of the land in the vicinity had gone up manifold which also provide a tangible monetary advantage to the government.
The standard of the development carried out by the Bahria Town stood established as being the highest international standard, the application said.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019