Court intervenes when govt projects fail legal test of transparency: SC

Updated March 18, 2020

Email

Remarks made in KP govt's appeal against PHC judgement to get BRT investigated by FIA. — SC website/File
Remarks made in KP govt's appeal against PHC judgement to get BRT investigated by FIA. — SC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has made it clear that it intervenes in the government’s development projects only if they fail the legal test of transparency, smack of conflict of interest or fail scrutiny carried out by auditors; otherwise monitoring of such projects is not the court’s job.

The observation came on Tuesday during the hearing of appeals moved by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government through the chief secretary, the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) and secretaries of the local government and rural development and transport department seeking to overturn the Nov 14, 2019 judgement of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) which had formulated 35 questions and referred the controversial Peshawar Rapid Bus Transport (BRT) project to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for a thorough inquiry.

An SC bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, however, asked Adnan Afridi, the original petitioner before the PHC, to furnish a proper reply to the rejoinder moved by the provincial government against the high court’s verdict by engaging a legal counsel.

The apex court postponed the proceedings for a month and till then the stay earlier granted by it against the Nov 14, 2019 PHC directive for the FIA to carry out a thorough probe into the controversial BRT project will continue.

The Supreme Court, however, was assured by the planners of the project that it would complete positively by the end of July this year and speculations that the cost of the project had escalated beyond Rs100 billion from its initial cost of Rs49bn were mere rumours as the project would be completed within Rs69bn.

The initial cost of the project had to be increased by Rs17bn in view of the design change since two kilometres were added to the project, they said, adding that 85 per cent of the project had been funded by the Asian Development Bank and the remaining by the KP government.

Senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, representing the PDA, argued that the court would be stormed with people if it started ordering the government to compensate individuals since the project affected their privacy.

While deciding the case, the PHC had held that the concept of town planning was Greek to the decision-makers as Peshawar was mainly fed by a single traffic artery of Khyber Road.

Due to this factor alone, Khyber Road and branch roads are mainly congested, but no efforts were made to relocate the wholesale market outside the main city; besides the idea of ring road for the city that emerged in

the 1980s also succumbed to the prescribed procedure, especially for a mega project.

The high court had deplored that the dysfunctional PC-1 of the project was approved from the PDWP and CDWP in April/May 2017 at a cost of Rs49.5bn without completion of the detail design. The cost was later revised to Rs66.4bn on May 23, 2018.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2020