In three separate yet equally searing verdicts delivered on Friday, the Supreme Court (SC) came down hard on Bahria Town’s land grabbing and illegal encroachment of land for its housing projects across the country. Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who is set to retire just three days hence, authored the hard-hitting majority judgements in each case. He was accompanied on the bench by Justices Maqbool Baqar and Faisal Arab.
Each judgement was passed 2-1, with Justice Maqbool Baqar dissenting in each case.
The apex court barred Bahria Town from selling or allotting land in the Bahria Town Karachi project after declaring that the allotment of land to the company by the Sindh government and its land swap with the Malir Development Authority (MDA) was done illegally.
“We are constrained to declare that the grant of the land to the MDA, its exchange with the land of Bahria Town and anything done pursuant thereto being against the provisions of COGLA 1912 [Colonization of Government Lands Act, 1912] and statement of conditions are void ab initio and as such have no existence,” the court ruled.
“The government land would go back to the government and the land of Bahria Town exchanged for the government land would go back to Bahria Town,” the court ordered.
The bench hearing the case further directed the National Accountability Bureau to file references against those responsible for illegally transferring and allotting land and take action against them within three months.
The court also considered the interests of those people Bahria Town has already sold the land to.
“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 under the provisions of COGLA 1912.”
“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 of this court.”
“We, therefore, request the Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute a bench for the implementation of this judgement in its letter and spirit,” it asked.
“Bahria Town shall not sell any plot, built-up unit, apartment etc after the announcement of this judgement.