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Bahria Town case: SC orders relocation of deposited sum to federal, Sindh govts
The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) has delivered a historic judgment in the Bahria Town implementation case, ordering the distribution of Rs65 billion deposited by Bahria Town among the federal and provincial governments.
The Supreme Court in its verdict said that out of this amount, Rs35 billion will go to the federal government and Rs30 billion to the Sindh government. The SC also turned down Bahria Town’s plea to modify the settlement deal that was reached in March 2019.
A three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah heard the case. The chief justice announced the reserved verdict.
The SC expressed its concern for the plight of the allottees who invested their life savings in the land and became dependent on the developer. The SC said: “This has raised the issue of protecting the rights and interests of the allottees and we expect that all the governments will take necessary steps in this regard.” The Advocate General Sindh assured the SC that the government will comply with the court orders.
The case was heard by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah. The bench examined various aspects of the case and heard the arguments of the parties involved. A 10-member survey team, headed by the commissioner of Karachi, submitted its report at the start of the hearing.
The SC also heard the counsel of Mashreq Bank, who presented a letter from the UK’s National Crime Agency stating that the account freezing order against Mubashera Ali Malik, the daughter-in-law of Malik Riaz and the account holder, was revoked. The counsel informed the SC that Mubashera Ali Malik voluntarily transferred over 19 million pounds from the UK to Pakistan in 2019.
The Advocate General Sindh presented a report on Bahria Town Karachi, prompting Justice Athar Minallah to question whether the land under consideration was government-owned or part of Bahria Town’s private holdings. The court pressed the deputy commissioner Malir to clarify the division between public and private land, receiving the response that 1775 acres were government-owned, with an additional 37.2 acres classified as private.
The chief justice asked the officials of the Survey of Pakistan about the technicalities of their survey methods. The survey team affirmed their satisfaction with the Global Navigation Satellite System used for the survey.
The Advocate General Sindh assured the court that Bahria Town had not encroached upon the National Park’s land, to which Chief Justice responded that if so, then there is no issue. The court then summoned Bahria Town’s lawyer, Salman Aslam Butt, expressing discontent with previous allegations.
During the hearing, Butt requested time to respond to the survey report, but the chief justice denied the request, emphasizing that the court had already read the report. Tensions rose as the court criticized Butt’s objections and reluctance to acknowledge the survey’s findings.
Salman Aslam Butt presented a map of Bahria Town Karachi and argued that the Supreme Court’s decision was out of jurisdiction. The court firmly stated that it had not altered the original decision and questioned why the payment agreement had not been executed.
As the hearing progressed, the court expressed frustration with Butt’s objections and reminded him of his involvement in the survey process. The court criticized Bahria Town for raising objections only after the survey results were unfavorable.
The court also highlighted concerns about the delay in the execution case, prompting Butt to request more time to respond to the survey report. The Chief Justice refused the request, instructing Butt to present his arguments and stating that the court would not necessarily agree with all objections.
In a heated exchange, Butt complained of unfair treatment towards Bahria Town, but the court urged him to continue his arguments. The Chief Justice scolded Butt, emphasizing the need for respectful discourse. The court, unswayed by objections, dismissed Butt’s request for additional time.
As the proceedings continued, the court engaged in a dialogue with the Advocate General of Sindh, expressing concerns about the government’s perceived weaknesses and corruption. Justice Athar Minallah remarked on the need to reclaim encroached land and urged the government to take action.
The Chief Justice questioned Bahria Town’s representative about the process of allotment when a plot is purchased. The representative explained the issuance of an allotment and the full payment process. The court, unsatisfied, paused the hearing to consult and later announced its decision to write the verdict after further deliberation.
In a separate exchange, the Chief Justice expressed dissatisfaction with the legal advisor of the Malir Development Authority, raising questions about the purpose of governments and the protection of citizens investing in land.
Justice Athar Minallah criticized the legal justice system’s ranking, highlighting the lack of adherence to laws in the country. He emphasized the irregular regularization of big houses and the demolition of common people’s huts.
The chief justice, addressing Barrister Salahuddin, the lawyer representing citizens who filed a petition against the encroachment of the National Park land, stated that the survey indicated no encroachment on the park’s land. “I will review the survey report,” he said.
The court summoned Bahria Town’s lawyer, Salman Aslam Butt again on the rostrum. The chief justice commented that a false allegation had been made before the court, and questioned when the application would be filed, given that three or four years had passed. Continuing, Lawyer Salman Aslam Butt requested permission to read the November 8 order, stating that, as per the court’s directive, the land should be 16,800 acres. The chief justice warned against using the word ‘allow’ and insisted on not using it.
Butt demanded time to respond to the survey report, emphasizing that the report had not been read yet. The chief justice argued that they had read the report in court, and questioned why objections were not raised during the survey, considering Salman Aslam Butt’s participation.
He questioned whether the entire world was against them and criticized the objections raised now that the findings were unfavourable.
Salman Butt requested time to respond to the report, but the chief justice denied further time, asserting that not everything said would be agreed upon.
In the ensuing exchange, Salman Aslam Butt insisted on time to reply to the survey report, but the chief justice refused, instructing him to write his answer on it and proceed with the application.
The chief justice pointed out the prolonged execution case and the lack of applications for an early hearing. Salman Aslam Butt explained that requests for early hearings were often unscheduled, but Justice Athar Minallah countered that such requests were recorded. The chief justice emphasized that a developer profits from the land where plots are built and sold.
When presented with a map, the chief justice remarked that understanding it was not their responsibility and directed the lawyer to explain why the payment agreement was not executed.
Lawyer Salman Aslam Butt contended that the Supreme Court’s decision in this case exceeded its jurisdiction. He argued that reevaluating the land’s value would work against them, questioning the implications of the amounts presented to the Supreme Court.
Despite the Supreme Court’s order for Bahria Town to pay, Salman Aslam Butt, representing Malik Riaz, expressed a lack of instructions on the matter, citing an ongoing NAB investigation that raised concerns.
The hearing was adjourned again, and upon resumption, Salman Aslam Butt addressed the court, emphasizing the Sindh government’s report.
He requested time to submit a reply, expressing concern over the lack of details in the survey report regarding the ordered sixteen thousand acres. He highlighted the non-compliance with the court’s order and faced the chief justice’s ire. The chief justice, visibly frustrated, warned of consequences if the behaviour persisted, emphasizing the need for respect.
The discussion then shifted to the approval letter from the Malir Development Authority. Salman Aslam Butt was asked about the letter’s receipt, with the suggestion to request a review of the 16,000 acres. Despite Bahria Town’s refusal to accept a chair offered by the court, Salman Aslam Butt presented a map of Bahria Town Karachi. The chief justice expressed disappointment and urged the senior lawyer to set an example for junior lawyers.
Bahria Town’s lawyer contested the correctness of the decision being executed, prompting the chief justice to clarify that they were not implementing but rather upholding the agreed-upon decision.
The lawyer suggested canceling the agreement based on certain reasons. The chief justice emphasized the decision’s unchanged status and Salman Aslam Butt’s reference to the 2015 decision. The lawyer argued that the Supreme Court had the power to reverse decisions, especially in cases of abuse. The chief justice dismissed the claims of abuse, scolding the lawyer for lacking evidence. Salman Aslam Butt defended his stance, stating that relevant documents had been attached.
Expressing dissatisfaction, the statement was made that the land was not acquired in accordance with the agreement, leading to another adjournment of the hearing.
After the break, Justice Athar Minallah reflected on a previous commitment of Rs460 billion in the Supreme Court, remarking that it was made with careful consideration. The lawyer raised concerns about the incomplete government survey, prompting the chief justice to redirect the focus to legal matters, suggesting media discussions for other issues, and urging Salman to present his arguments concisely.
Bahria Town’s lawyer voiced complaints of unfair treatment, declaring intent to sit down, to which the chief justice insisted he do so.
Engaging with the Advocate General of Sindh, the chief justice candidly addressed the perceived weaknesses in the Sindh government, emphasizing corruption and profit-driven motives. Justice Athar Minallah expressed a commitment to reclaim over 16,000 acres of encroached land, receiving assurance from the Advocate General on lawful action.
The chief justice questioned the state of governance in Sindh, highlighting concerns about passing on such a society to future generations. Doubts were raised about the government’s dedication to public service. When asked about the process of plot acquisition, the Bahria Town representative outlined the allotment and full payment, leading to another pause in the hearing, with the court indicating a decision would follow consultation.
In a critique of government functionality, the chief justice underscored the global purpose of governments in serving the people, contrasting it with what the government had been doing to enrich officers.
During the proceedings, the court expressed displeasure with the legal advisor of Malir Development. The chief justice pointed out that for what purpose he receives salary from Malir Development Authority.
He emphasized the global purpose of governments, which is to serve the people. In contrast, he criticized the local situation, stating that the government’s purpose seems to be enriching officers.
The chief justice illustrated a scenario where a person buys a plot and receives a document, but the next day someone else claims ownership. He raised the question what protection the Sindh government would offer in such cases.
Justice Athar Minallah highlighted the problematic state of our legal justice system, citing the rating of judiciary at 130. He lamented the lack of law adherence in the country, illustrating the disparity between the regularization of mansions for the elite and the demolition of huts for the common man.