LAHORE: A full bench of Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday directed the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) to present minutes of its meeting held to approve the signal-free corridor project from Qurtaba Chowk to Liberty Market.
“The court wants to know the reasons given by the committee to launch the project,” Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah remarked. On March 6, Justice Shah had stayed work on the project and directed the LDA to immediately remove all construction machinery from the site. Later, the chief justice had formed a full bench to hear the case.
On Tuesday, Advocate General Naveed Rasool Mirza told the court that minutes of the meeting were not available. Justice Shah, however, gave the officials till April 6 to bring them before the court.
A petition had been filed by 19 people against the project, including IA Rehman, Imrana Tiwana, Ayaz Amir, and Faryal Ali Gohar.
The petitioners submitted that the project violated the democratic rights of citizens assured by Article 140-A of the Constitution and the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013.
They said the LDA had usurped the functions of the local government. “The LDA is acting like a local government in itself which is illegal and in conflict with the powers of the elected local governments,” they said.
They said that several underpasses were going to be built on Jail Road and Gulberg’s Main Boulevard at a cost of Rs1.5 billion. “The environmental cost is even greater. Thousands of trees will be destroyed. Pollution will also increase through emissions from the enhanced flow of traffic,” the petitioners said.
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is incapable of acting as an independent evaluator of the environmental implications of the project,” they said.
They said that transfer of funds under any head from the province to the LDA for expenditure within the Lahore division must be accounted for in the Provincial Finance Commission Award.
“The imbalance between various areas of Lahore division in terms of infrastructure development and between various divisions and districts of the Punjab is on account of the lack of democratic decision-making at the local government level and the absence of a Provincial Finance Commission Award,” they said.
They requested the court to stop the project and declare Sections 3(5)(b), 6(1), 6(2), 13, 13A, 14, 14A, 18, 19, 27 and 28 of the LDA Act 1975 illegal for being in conflict with the local governments’ laws.
They requested the court to direct the government to ensure independence and security of tenure for the EPA DG through legislation.
They also asked the court to direct officials acting on its behalf as administrators of local governments to refrain from taking any major decisions, including decisions regarding infrastructure development, that would be taken by the elected representatives after local body elections set for September 20, 2015.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2015.
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