LAHORE: The Punjab government suffered a major blow to its uplift projects drive as the Lahore High Court scrapped on Friday the 7km long signal-free corridor from Qartaba Chowk, Jail Road, to Liberty Chowk (Main Boulevard, Gulberg) and clipped the powers of the Lahore Development Authority to launch any such project for it does not have a mandate for the purpose.

Announcing a short-order handed down by a full bench, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah said these development projects were the mandate of the local government system under the Constitution. Justice Yawar Ali and Justice Ayesha A Malik were other members of the bench.

The bench maintained in its order that the constitutional mandate of an elected local government system could not be diluted or encroached upon.

“Therefore, provisions of the Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975, to the extent that they are in conflict with the powers and functions assigned to the local government system or in any manner assume powers and functions devolved to the local government, in this case, Lahore Metropolitan Corporation, under the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013, are declared to be unconstitutional and ultra vires of Article 140A and the concomitant fundamental rights of the people,” the bench ruled.

It observed that the local government system had been fully recognized as the third tier of government by the constitution and elected local government system at the grass root level was pivotal for a strong and robust democracy and actualizing the constitutional vision.


Says LDA doesn’t have a mandate for the purpose


The powers and functions of LDA shall always remain subject to Article 140A of the Constitution and Punjab Local Government Act, 2013, it added.

“Till such time that the Local Government elections are held, which are scheduled for Sept 2015, LDA will only attend its existing on-going projects and the day-to-day work regarding repair and maintenance but shall not embark upon any new project which encroaches upon the powers of an elected Local Government System,” the bench further ruled.

The bench also set aside the approval of environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the construction of the signal-free corridor project granted by Director General of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for being given without lawful authority.

It said the concerned officers of LDA and EPA/EPD shall be held personally accountable for allowing the project to be mobilized on the site, causing traffic disturbance to the public, without first obtaining approval of the EIA as mandated under section 12 of PEPA.

The bench observed that the project in question could only be initiated after seeking approval from the concerned elected local government system, as and when it may be formed.

It directed LDA and its contractor to remove all construction equipment and construction works from the site forthwith and restore the roads to their original position.

Several petitions were filed against the project by individuals and members of Lahore Bachao Tehreek. The petitioners included Imrana Tiwana, I. A. Rehman, Ayaz Amir, Faryal Ali Gohar, Fahad Malik, Advocate Azhar Siddique and others.

Besides Advocate General Naveed Rasool Mirza, Advocates Khwaja Haris, Mustafa Ramday, Waqar A. Sheikh, Salman Mansoor and Jahanzeb Inam represented the government side and the LDA. Advocate Waqas Ahmad Mir, Professor Osama Siddique, Dr Ali Cheema assisted the bench as amicus curiae (friends of court) on the matter.

On March 6, a single bench initially stayed the signal free corridor project and referred the matter to the chief justice for constitution of full bench. The bench conducted day-to-day hearing in the case.

APP adds: LDA’s counsel opposed the petitioners’ stance and submitted that the project was aimed at streamlining traffic flow. He contended that the project was initiated after approval of the Environment Department which was competent authority for the purpose. He pleaded the court to dismiss the petitions.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2015

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