The Supreme Court has prohibited Bahria Town from selling or allotting land in its Bahria Town Karachi housing project.
In its detailed verdict, a three-judge bench declared the allotment and transfer of the properties illegal. The three judges were Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Faisal Arab.
“The government land would go back to the government and the land of the Bahria Town exchanged for the government land would go back to the Bahria Town,” the judgement said.
The court ordered National Accountability Bureau to investigation transfer of Malir Development Authority land to Bahria Town and file references against all those responsible for committing crime at any level.
The court also considered interests of allotees, and requested Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute a separate bench for implementation of the judgement and determine key questions regarding value of allotment.
“Since a great deal of work has been done by the Bahria Town and a third-party interest has been created in favour of hundreds of allotees, the land could be granted to the Bahria Town afresh by the Board of Revenue. What would be the terms and conditions of grant, what would be the price of the land, whether it would be the one at which the Bahria Town sold the land to the people by and large, how much of government land and how much of the private land has been utilized by the Bahria Town, and what Bahria Town is entitled to receive in terms of money on account of development of the land are the questions to be determined by the implementation bench.”
The court raised questions over MDA’s legal authority and mechanism to exchange the government land with BT, and the mode MDA adopted to determine status and price of the government land.
“From the voluminous record of MDA placed on record it is established that no board meeting of MDA was held in which decision was taken as to what land from its controlled area was to be handed over to Bahria for its scheme,” the bench observed.
According to a survey, submitted by Survey of Pakistan – a national surveying and mapping organization of the country – the MDA has:
> Exchanged/consolidated 9140.260 acres of land to Bahria Town.
> Consolidated a piece of 244.925 acres which the BT has not yet developed.
> Total land consolidated by MDA and handed over to the BT is 93 85.185 acres.
> BT has developed 386.276 acres of land not yet been consolidated by MDA.
> BT has developed an area of 1975.059 acres which though developed by the BT has not been consolidated by the M.D.A.
> Land measuring 410.444 acres has been developed by BT, but not consolidated by MDA.
> Total land developed/under-development but not consolidated by MDA is 2771.79 acres. In this respect, total area of BT land comes to 12156.964 acres.
The Bahria Town is restrained from:
> Undertaking any development activity in 244.925 acres
> Undertaking any development activity on 386.276 acres not consolidated by MDA
> Undertaking any development activity on 1975.059 acres not consolidated by MDA
> Undertaking any further development activity on 410.444 acres
> Raising development activity in area measuring 2771.779 acres not been consolidated by the MDA
The MDA has been restrained from:
> Consolidating any further portion of the private land of the Bahria Town or any other private enterprise under the garb of exchange of land in exercise of their powers conferred on them under the M.D.A Act.
> Dealing with the land which are subject-matter of survey report either with Bahria Town or with any other organization
The Sindh Board of Revenue has been restricted from dealing with the land of MDA or any other authority subject matter of these proceedings.
Committee to evaluate market price
The apex court verdict said a committee is being constituted to evaluate the market price of the lands exchanged between MDA and Bahria.
The committee will be headed by Nasir Mahmood Khan Khosa, Ex-Chief Secretary,
Other members are 1. Shabbar Zaidi, Managing Partner, AF Ferguson & Co, 2. Secretary Land Utilisation Department Sindh, 3. Secretary Finance Sindh, 4. Arif Hassan, Visiting Professor Architect, NED University Karachi (Chairman Orangi Pilot Project, Research and Training Institute Karachi), 5. Kaiser Bengali, a prominent economist, 6. Jamil Yousef, Chainman TPL Corporation Ltd. (former Chairman CPLC Karachi), 7. Karamat Ali, Executive Director, Pakistan Institute of Environmental and Labour Research, and 8. a representative of real estate business associated with KCCI and nominated by head of the committee.
DHA City in crosshairs
The bench observed that some irregularities have also come forth in DHA City project, for which it requested CJP to take a suo motu notice.
DHA City is an under-construction housing project in Gadap Town in the outskirts of Karachi.
“The argument that where land of reserved forest was utilized by DHA and many other housing societies without any caveat, Bahria Town could not be treated differently is legally incorrect as one or any number of wrongs cannot justify yet another,” the order said.
“However, if at all any forest land has been utilized by DHA or any other society in violation of the provisions of law, we would request the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo moto notice of this fact so that all those who are found to be similarly placed be treated similarly.”
Impact on estate business
Bahria Town Karachi refused to comment on the court’s judgment.
“We cannot issue any statement at the moment,” a Bahria Town representative said. “It will be issued after consultation with the lawyers.”
An authorized property dealer in Bahria Town, speaking on the matter, said he had no knowledge of any ban on selling and purchasing of plots in the housing scheme.
“We have not received any instructions from Bahria Town management on the matter,” he said. “We were selling and purchasing the lands till yesterday.”
He said Supreme Court’s verdict will have a negative impact on the property as the prices are already on a decline.
‘Malik Riaz must be a happy’
“Malik Riaz must be a happy man after the court’s verdict. He has already collected all his monthly installments from local and overseas buyers,” an anxious invester, who wished not to be identified, told SAMAA.
“Obviously, there is a sense of panic and uncertainty among the buyers who are unsure about the fate of their plots or apartments.”
“We were hoping to have the possession in a few weeks, but the Supreme Court’s decision may give Bahria Town Karachi management an excuse to further delay the allotment,” he added.
Shehzad Lateef, a property dealer working with the Bahria Town, said the verdict by the court hasn’t made any negative impact on the market.
Only the ‘specific area’ is affected, and not the housing scheme as a whole, he said.
“All the main dealers of Bahria Town are in Germany to attend a property expo. They will devise a plan for future on their return,” he said in response to a question.