Sindh’s comments on plea for land settlement sought

Updated Dec 18 2019

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After the federal government’s plea, another application was moved by the Sindh government pleading for transfer of the funds to the account of the provincial government. — SC website/File
After the federal government’s plea, another application was moved by the Sindh government pleading for transfer of the funds to the account of the provincial government. — SC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Sindh government to explain its position on a federal government application seeking the land settlement funds being deposited by Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd in the apex court.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Faisal Arab, issued a notice to the provincial government when Attorney General Anwar Mansoor invited the court’s attention to the application that he had moved on behalf of the federal government on Aug 22.

“Why we have ordered the money to be deposited in the Supreme Court, because we need to look at where the money has to go,” remarked Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, another member of the bench that also comprised Justice Muneeb Akhtar.

Justice Ahsan observed that a lot of claimants had come up to claim the money even before it had been deposited. After the federal government’s plea, another application was moved by the Sindh government pleading for transfer of the funds to the account of the provincial government.

When the judge asked what the urgency was, the AG on a lighter note replied, “money”.

‘We need to look at where the money has to go,’ remarks Justice Ahsan

On March 21, a three-judge SC bench headed by then Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed had approved Rs460 billion offer made by Bahria Town to implement the apex court’s May 4, 2018 decision.

The court had in its order held that the grant of the land to the Malir Development Authority (MDA) by the Sindh government, its exchange with the land of Bahria Town and anything done under the provisions of Colonisation of Government Land Act, 1912 by the Sindh government were illegal and of no legal existence.

The land was granted for launching an incremental housing scheme, but instead of launching the scheme, the MDA exchanged it with Bahria Town to launch a scheme of its own, the SC judgement had regretted.

The settlement concerns only the Bahria Town Karachi (BTK) project spreading over 16,896 acres along the Superhighway; independent of other projects such as 5,472 kanals in Rawalpindi’s Takht Pari Rakh and 4,542 kanals in Sulkhatar and Manga Land, Murree.

The apex court had granted a period of seven years commencing from Sept 1, 2019 to Aug 31, 2026 for the payment of the entire amount to be deposited in the Supreme Court account.

In a two-page application, the federal government later pleaded that the money was liable to be credited to the public account of the federation. It said Bahria Town had already furnished a payment of Rs25bn and after the firstly installment of Rs2.5bn, the balance payment was required to be made in 36 equal monthly installments, with a four per cent mark-up charged annually.

The application said that considering the fact that money had been deposited or was liable to be deposited in the SC, the said amount was liable to be credited to the public account of the federation notwithstanding what purpose the money was obtained or deposited for. It referred to Article 78 of the Constitution in this regard. As per provision of Article 78(2)(b) of the Constitution, any money received by or deposited in the Supreme Court was liable to be credited to the “public account of the federation”, the application explained.

Article 78(1) says that all the revenues received by the federal government, all loans raised by that government and all moneys received by it in repayment of any loan, shall form part of a consolidated fund, to be known as the federal Consolidated Fund, whereas Article 78(2) of the Constitution suggests that all other money received by or on behalf of the federal government or (b) received by or deposited with the Supreme Court or any other court established under the authority of the federation.

Read more: Bahria Town Karachi: Greed unlimited

Similarly, the Sindh government through the chief secretary also filed a similar application seeking an order that the money in the account, established by the apex court where the down payment had already been deposited by Bahria Town Karachi, be transferred to the provincial account No1 of the Sindh government.

The provincial government requested the court to take up the case urgently as any unnecessary delay in the hearing of its application could cause serious injury and irreparable financial loss to the applicant and the people of Sindh.

The provincial government stated that the future payments, including the shortfall in the down payment, to be made by Bahria Town Karachi should be transferred to the Sindh government account.

The application mentioned that against the budgetary estimates of Rs605.6bn, the Sindh government had received Rs493bn by June 30, 2019, reflecting a shortfall of Rs112bn. Besides, the Sindh government is also facing a shortfall of Rs74.99bn against the revised estimates of Rs508bn against the federal revenue assignment from the divisible pool.

It explained that against the allocation of Rs14.266bn under the Public Sector Development Programme 2018-19, the Sindh government had received only Rs9.9bn from the federal government. This shortfall in the provincial revenue jeopardised development projects that had already been initiated as well as those which were at various stages of preparation, the application said.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2019