ISLAMABAD: Bahria Town’s offer to pay Rs358 billion for the regularisation of its projects in Karachi failed to satisfy the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday as the bench asked the real estate giant to reconsider its offer.
Heading a three-judge bench, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed heard the case pertaining to the implementation of the apex court’s May 4, 2018 verdict against the Bahria Town Karachi project. The court, in its May 4, 2018 judgement, had found the swap of land granted to Malir Development Authority (MDA) with the land owned by Bahria Town to be illegal and subsequently directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to probe the real estate giant.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Justice Saeed stated that in 2014, the court had set Rs225bn as the amount to be paid in order to legalise 7,000 acres of land and if one marks that up by 40 per cent to account for inflation, other factors, the number comes up to Rs315bn.
In response, defence counsel Ali Zafar said, “My client is ready to pay Rs315bn in return for the legalisation of all 16,896 acres of land that are disputed. They cannot pay more than that.”
The offer was dismissed by Justice Saeed, who noted that Rs315bn is the price Bahria Town should pay for just 7,068 acres of land, comparing the offer with the amount the apex court had fined it for possessing 7,000 acres in 2014. “We’re not haggling over tomatoes here,” Justice Saeed said.
The defence lawyer then said that his client simply wanted a way out of the matter. He then made a final offer of Rs358bn. To this, the bench said that it would hear the federal and Sindh governments as well as the anti-graft watchdog before it could make a decision over it.
During the hearing, the difference in land allocation maps presented to the court by the Surveyor General of Pakistan (SGP), NAB and Bahria Town irked the bench. The court was informed by SGP that Bahria Town is being untruthful about the matter. “Bahria Town’s authorised dealer — Prism — is selling land in Karachi which is outside of the housing society’s demarcation,” SGP said. Upon hearing this, the court summoned the owner of Prism to court for the next hearing. SGP was also ordered to submit a report on the matter within two weeks.
The court also directed Malir deputy commissioner to regain control of government land within two weeks and sought a report on the matter. “This land was yours and you should have taken care of it. If you cannot protect government land, you should be ready to suffer NAB,” Justice Saeed said.