LHC declares Ravi riverfront project ‘unconstitutional’

Justice Karim directs RUDA to return loans to Punjab govt in two months


Rana Yasif January 25, 2022
PHOTO: RUDA.GOV.PK

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LAHORE:

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday announced its verdict in the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development project case, declaring the scheme “unconstitutional” on the grounds that it lacked a master plan.

“Any scheme if established without [a] master plan is unconstitutional,” Justice Shahid Karim said, directing the RUDA to return the loans obtained from the provincial government for the project within two months.

Announcing the verdict, Justice Karim said that the RUDA failed in preparing a master plan in accordance with the law as “all schemes are under a master plan”.

The court noted that proper procedure was not adopted in purchasing agricultural land for the Ravi Urban Development project in Lahore and Sheikhupura, therefore, it declared the practice of acquiring the land through amendment in Section 4 of the RUDA Ordinance “unconstitutional”.

“Section 4 of the RUDA (amendment) Ordinance 2021 is contrary to Article 144 of the Constitution,” the order said. “The acquirement notification of Section 4 is illegal.”

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Justice Karim said, “The agricultural land can only be acquired when there is a proper legal framework, but in this case it was obtained in violation of the Lan Acquisition Act, 1894.”

The court had reserved its decision on December 21 after hearing arguments in length from both the sides.

Petitioner's counsel Sheraz Zaka had argued in the previous proceedings that sections 29, 30, 31 of the RUDA Act, which are about acquiring land, are contrary to Article 24 of the Constitution.

Advocate Zaka stated that the RUDA board included bureaucrats and could not be compared with the Lahore Development Authority.

LDA counsel Waqar A Sheikh argued that the Punjab chief minister is the chairman of LDA. “The LDA board includes public representatives but the RUDA board lacks such representation. The status of public representative had been given to the non-elected,” he said, adding that the RUDA Act was actually against the democratic principles.

 

The RUDA counsel apprised the court that the provincial assembly had passed the RUDA budget. “All aspects for starting this project were fulfilled.”

Zaka had contended that the government was acquiring agricultural land for the project, which will increase environment pollution. He contended that Lahore City had already been mentioned in the world’s most polluted cities list.

Petitioners had contended the current status of the increased air pollution warranted the need to raise a red flag, as smog had engulfed the entire city, as a repercussion of which foreseeable yet preventable calamities would materialise, some of which included eye diseases and respiratory disorders. Smog was caused due to vehicular emission, industrial fumes which react with sunlight to form photochemical smog.

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They prayed the court to direct the respondents to perform their statutory obligations and to take all precautionary measures against smog.

It was also respectfully prayed to direct the respondents to take action against the industrial units established in residential areas causing severe noise and air pollution.

It was also prayed to declare the actions of respondents regarding commencement of work in Ravi Urban area as illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires. “And they be restrained from acquiring agricultural land for establishing the Ravi Urban project.”

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