Tuesday Jan 25, 2022
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday declared the Ravi Riverfort Urban Development Project (RRUDP) illegal while announcing a verdict on the petitions against the project.
The petitions, filed by advocates Sheraz Zaka, Ahmad Rafay Alam and others on behalf of the farmers, challenged the mode and manner of the land acquisition proceedings undertaken by the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) for RRUDP.
The court also declared Section 4 of the Ravi Urban Development Authority (amendment) Ordinance 2021 unlawful and unconstitutional.
The mentioned section is contradictory to Article 144 of the Constitution of Pakistan, it said.
"Agricultural land can be acquired only when there is a proper legal framework for it but the land for RRUDP was acquired through a violation of Land Acquisition Act, 1894," the court remarked.
"Lahore and Sheikhupura failed to abide by the law in the land acquisition," the court said.
The LHC said, while announcing the verdict, that since RRUDP's master plan is the basic document, all the schemes should be under the masterplan as per the law.
"Hence, any scheme worked upon without [being included in] the master plan is illegal," the court said.
Giving the observation that RUDA's amendment ordinance has failed to fulfil the constitutional requirements, the court directed the Authority to return the money it had acquired from the government within two months.
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 environmental impact assessment, how could it be presumed of public purpose. They argued that the project would deprive the farmers of their precious land and such deprivation was an infringement of fundamental rights.
On this, the LHC had stayed the the process of land acquisition for the project for not meeting the legal requirements and environmental laws over the petitions.
However, the government of Punjab was of the view that since Ravi Urban Authority (amendment) Ordinance 2021 was passed to cover legal infirmities, the stay orders granted by the court and the petitions against the project stood infructuous.