The Supreme Court on Monday issued a written order in the Bahria Town case, imposing a fine of Rs. 1 million on the property developer—to be paid to the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation—for “wasting” the court’s time with frivolous applications.
Additionally, Bahria Town has been directed to reimburse Rs. 1 million to the Sindh government to recoup the amount spent by the Survey of Pakistan to assess the land in possession of the developer. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, who led a three-member bench comprising Justices Aminud Din Khan and Athar Minallah, dictated the 13-page order after several days of hearings.
According to the ruling, Bahria Town had stopped paying installments for land in Sindh’s Malir district after claiming it had been granted 11,747 acres against the 16,896 acres it was supposed to receive. Under the original ruling, the developer was to pay Rs. 460 billion over seven years. Bahria Town’s counsel, during proceedings, argued that it had brought the matter to the notice of the apex court through an application filed in 2019, adding the case was pending for the past four years.
Noting that the court had ordered a survey of the land on Nov. 8, the order stated that it was conducted scientifically by using Global Navigation Satellite System Receivers in the presence of the realtor’s own survey team. The cost of the survey was Rs. 1 million, it said, observing that it found Bahria Town was in possession of 19,931.63 acres, 3,035.63 acres beyond what it was supposed to receive. This possession of excess land could not have occurred without the cooperation of government officials, it said, adding the advocate general had assured the court action would be taken against the culprits.
As such, read the order, the realtor “undoubtedly” knew there was no shortfall in the land in its possession “because it did not abandon the project and made no effort to have its applications, alleging shortfall, fixed for hearing in court, nor filed a single application stating that the matter was urgent.” It observed that Bahria’s applications alleging shortfall of land appeared to be a pretext to avoid paying the instalments it had agreed to pay. “The applications were also used as a smokescreen to conceal the additional land in Bahria Town’s possession,” it added.
Noting that Bahria Town should have paid Rs. 166.25 billion, excluding applicable mark-up, by now, the court noted it had actually only submitted Rs. 24 billion. “Even if the members of this bench have reservations about the consent order, the fact remains that it was on the request of Bahria Town and to its benefit and advantage,” it said. “Bahria Town is not willing to abide by its obligations, to make payment for the land, which is not a ground on which the [civil review petition] could be filed, let alone allowed,” it added.
Referring to the remittances of £136 million pounds and $44 million from abroad into the accounts of the SC registrar, the order regretted this was done without the Supreme Court’s permission, lamenting the apex court was unnecessarily involved with money detected by the National Crime Agency, U.K., which probably were proceeds of criminal activity. “Apparently, these monies were used to offset Bahria Town’s stated liability, bringing to mind the idiom—robbing Peter to pay Paul. Therefore, the amount received from abroad and the markup earned thereon be remitted to the Government of Pakistan. The Registrar of the Supreme Court and the National Bank of Pakistan shall do the needful in this regard,” it stated.
Bahria Town, the order further said, had not deposited in the Supreme Court account the instalments it had agreed to pay for a considerable time, and was in default of the consent order. After the funds contained therein are paid to the Government of Pakistan and the Sindh government, it said, the NBP should close the account maintained in the name of the SC registrar.