LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday took notice of the land acquisition for the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project despite a stay order and restrained the provincial government from any process till the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the prime minister’s flagship initiative.
Hearing multiple petitions, Justice Shahid Karim referred to media reports about the clash of the revenue officials and the farmers and asked a provincial law officer as to why the land was being vacated for the project after a stay.
The law officer said it was a public hearing by the land collector under section 9 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894.
The judge observed that the court was previously told that the notification issued under section 4 of the Act for the acquisition of the land had been withdrawn. He said it was unfortunate that the farmers were being subjected to maltreatment.
The law officer said the government had an understanding as if the court stayed construction work on the site only. He pointed out that another court also stayed the final decision on the EIA.
Justice Karim directed the government that no process of land acquisition shall be held till the EIA of the project. He said the lives of the people had been shattered with the acquisition of their properties for the Orange Line Metro Train, a project of the previous government.
“Even a plot in DHA cannot be a substitute for a generations old house in the old city,” Justice Karim remarked.
The judge further observed that under Right to Fair Compensation in Land Acquisition Act 2013, the Indian Parliament made revolutionary changes and without seeking free consent land could not be acquired there. He said the Indian law was an amazing piece of legislation.
Justice Karim observed that it was high time that a judgement should be delivered on the land acquisition laws in Pakistan.
On behalf of a petitioner, Advocate Sheraz Zaka argued that the land acquisition laws had been blatantly violated as the farmers were being forced to sell their land. He said the government had not disclosed any public purpose of the riverfront project, which was mandatory under the section 4 of Act.
Advocates Abuzar Salman Niazi and Ahmad Rafay Alam represented other petitioners. The judge would resume hearing on March 11.
PSL: Justice Karim directed the Punjab government that no roads shall be blocked in Lahore during the matches of Pakistan Super League-6.
The judge observed that blocking roads resulted in traffic congestion and air pollution.
Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2021