LHC declared PTI's flagship Ravi Urban Development Project unconstitutional

LHC directed Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) to return money to Punjab government it had acquired for the project 

The Lahore High Court (LHC) declared the Ravi Urban Development Project unconstitutional. LHC also directed the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) to return money it had acquired for the project to the Punjab government.

In his decision that was reserved on Dec 21 last year, Justice Shahid Karim said RUDA failed to prepare a master plan in accordance with the law. He added that any scheme without a master plan is contrary to the constitution.

According to the LHC judge, Section 4 of the RUDA Amendment Ordinance violated Article 144 and the ordinance itself was unconstitutional. The judge said the agricultural land could only be acquired when there are proper legal mechanism is in place.

During the previous hearing after which the judgment was reserved, the petitioners’ counsel had said that sections 29-31 of the RUDA Act pertaining to the land acquisition were contrary to Article 24 of the Constitution. He said there was no comparison between RUDA and the Lahore Development Authority (LDA).

Ravi Urban Development Project was a flagship project of PTI government and Punjab government established an Authority to develop this project. PM Imran Khan inaugurated that project. This decision is a big setback for PTI government. 
LDA counsel Waqar A Sheikh argued that the LDA chairperson was the chief minister of Punjab. “The LDA board also comprises public representatives but public representation has been ignored in RUDA,” he added.

The powers of the public representatives have been given to the non-elected representatives in RUDA, the counsel said, adding that the RUDA Act was against the democratic principles.

RUDA 's counsel apprised the court that the provincial assembly had passed the RUDA budget and that all requirements were met before the project started.

Petitioners’ counsel had informed the court that the agricultural land was being acquired to build the Ravi city, even though Lahore was one of the most polluted cities in the world.

The petitioners had also requested the court to take the smog factor into account while hearing the case against RUDA. They had also asked the court to direct the respondents to perform their statutory obligations and to take precautionary measures against smog.

The petitioners had questioned the legality of forceful acquisitions of land for commercial purposes under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, while some of them questioned the legality of the Environment Impact Assessment of the project prepared by an unregistered consultant.

The petitioners' counsels objected that if the project was bereft of an environmental impact assessment, how it could be presumed to be of public interest. They argued that the project would deprive the farmers of their precious land and such deprivation was an infringement of fundamental rights.

                                                                            Web Desk

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