Bahria Town withdraws plea for extension in payment schedule

Updated 17 Sep 2020

Email

The developer's counsel said that there were no sales in Bahria Town projects and even construction activity had stopped due to the pandemic.
The developer's counsel said that there were no sales in Bahria Town projects and even construction activity had stopped due to the pandemic.

ISLAMABAD: The Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd Karachi (BTLK) on Wednesday withdrew its application requesting the Supreme Court to grant extension in the payment schedule of monthly instalment of Rs2.5 billion out of the promised amount of Rs460bn for the housing project.

Senior counsel Barrister Syed Ali Zafar withdrew the application on behalf of the BTLK when Justice Faisal Arab, while heading a three-judge implementation bench of the Supreme Court, observed that the court was rejecting the same for being premature.

The bench had taken up the BTLK application seeking extension in the payment schedule as well as grant of leasehold rights by the Sindh government as it is facing difficulties in transferring rights to its allottees.

The SC implementation bench had on March 21 last year accepted the developer’s offer to pay Rs460bn for the purchase of land measuring 16,896 acres in the Malir Development Authority (MDA), but with certain terms and conditions.

Developer’s counsel says he was seeking extension in time period out of frustration

The offer was accepted to implement the apex court’s May 4, 2018, judgement which had held the grant of land to the MDA by the Sindh government, its exchange with the land of private developer Bahria Town and anything done under the provisions of the Colonisation of Government Land Act 1912 by the provincial government illegal and of no legal existence.

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

On Wednesday, Barrister Zafar commenced his arguments by stating that he was seeking extension in the time period out of frustration. The Covid-19 pandemic had hampered economic growth and even the government had to announce a moratorium on payment schedules since the capacity of people to pay had gone down, he said, adding that there were no sales in Bahria Town projects and even construction activity had stopped.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan said the counsel was in fact asking the implementation bench to review its March 21 order which it could not do.

Justice Arab observed that once the bench finally implemented the court’s May 4, 2018, judgement only then the order became absolute, adding that “we have to remain within the limits of the earlier judgement”.

Barrister Zafar explained that the nature of the March 21, 2019, order was unique and not the judgement and, therefore, the implementation bench could alter it. He said the court could vary its order in terms of the payment schedule.

Justice Ahsan said the Covid-19 pandemic had affected the people all over the world and they had to live with it and adjust their lives accordingly. “Extension cannot be granted merely because the stock market had crashed or due to floods or other exigencies,” he observed. Banks were rescheduling payments because of business strategies, but here the implementation of the SC judgement was involved in which the BTLK had given an undertaking to pay Rs460bn, he added.

Justice Munib Akhtar also reminded the counsel that the BTLK had agreed to the payment schedule after it was given the choice and, therefore, the developer was not in a position to demand anything more.

Justice Ahsan observed that it would set a bad precedence if the court allowed amendments to its judgement, reminding the counsel of the commitment made by the developer to pay Rs2.5bn every month. “The court cannot tamper with the tenor and wording of the judgement,” he said.

Justice Arab said that as of today the BTLK’s application was premature and the court was dismissing it.

At this, the counsel requested the court to allow him to withdraw the application.

The court accepted the request.

In its application, the BTLK had contended that it had deposited a sum of Rs57.4bn to date with the Supreme Court, recalling that the court had through its 2019 order allowed the developer to allot and otherwise deal with 16,896 acres of the property in question as a builder or developer only.

The application stated that allottees of the BTLK project were facing problems in getting finances and generating optimum value of their properties/lands due to non-availability of title or lease in their names.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2020