SC suspends LHC ruling in Ravi riverfront project case

Apex court allows the provincial government to continue work on the project

Hasnaat Malik January 31, 2022


The Supreme Court on Monday suspended the ruling of the Lahore High Court (LHC) in the Ravi Urban Development Plan case and allowed the Punjab government to continue work on the project.

The bench was hearing appeals against the annulment of the project, earlier declared “unconstitutional” by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on January 25 as the project lacked a master plan.

The court allowed the provincial government to continue construction activity on plots of land for which dues have been cleared. However, the apex court restricted the Punjab government from construction activity on plots for which dues are still pending and the owners have not been paid.

During today's hearing, notices were also issued to the respondents in the case and the bench stated that a review will be done to determine if the appeal constitutes an intra-court appeal.

In the case of an intra-court appeal, the case will be referred back to the LHC, added the bench.

Earlier in the hearing, the apex court reprimanded the legal team of the Punjab government for appearing before the bench in the case unprepared.

“You do not know what the case is?” asked Justice Ijazul Ahsan when AGP Owais was unable to answer the question. “It seems that you have not prepared.”

The Punjab AGP replied that the provincial government was not a party to the case in the high court’s verdict. “Not being party to one of 18 petitions does not matter,” Justice Ahsan remarked, adding that the Punjab government had presented its position in the high court.

The petitions were against the public hearing of the environment agency, AGP Punjab prayed further.

The justice replied that according to the records, acquisition of lands for the project was also challenged and added that the provincial government's legal team should not misrepresent in court.

Read More: PM pins hope on SC for Ravi riverfront revival

In its January 25 decision, the LHC had stated that “any scheme if established without [a] master plan is unconstitutional".

The court had also 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.”

However, on January 28, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said the government would now invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in the case.

“The case would be presented in a better manner to bring to the court’s attention the scheme’s significance in view of urban development and civic facilities,” the premier had said.

PM Imran had highlighted the salient features of the project, including plantation of twenty million trees as part of forestation, construction of barrages to shore up the water table and filtration of sewerage.

Giving grounds for the ambitious $Rs20bn project, the premier had explained that the riverfront project would yield employment opportunities and encourage foreign investment, adding that an amount of Rs1.5 billion had been already received in this regard.



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