LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday showed displeasure at the alleged violations of its stay orders regarding Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project and sought an explanation from the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) on what grounds possession right of the landowners in the project area was being encroached upon.
Justice Shahid Karim was hearing a petition filed on behalf of the small landowners and affectees of the area under the riverfront development project.
The petitioners challenged the mode and manner of the land acquisition proceedings undertaken by RUDA for the project.
They claimed that the hearing for the objections to the land acquisition, scheduled for March 2, 2021 could not be held due to a law and order situation created on that day. However, despite these circumstances, they said, the RUDA land acquisition collector passed 18 awards the same day amounting to billions of rupees.
The petitioners also challenged the legality of forceful land acquisitions for commercial purposes under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
Advocate Mirza Mehmood Ahmad, the counsel for the petitioners, argued before the court that RUDA was offering the land forcefully acquired for a purported “public purpose” to commercial developers to establish housing estates and high-rises to be eventually sold for profit.
He contended that the land could not be forcefully acquired on lower rates by the government in order to unjustly enrich private investors.
The counsel further pointed out that the land acquisition proceedings were being undertaken under a colonial law which had lost its relevance after the inclusion of articles 23 & 24 in the Constitution.
After hearing preliminary arguments advanced by the counsel, Justice Karim expressed displeasure over the alleged violation of the stay orders and summoned the RUDA land acquisition collector to explain his position.
The judge also sought a reply from the Punjab government to the petition and directed RUDA to refrain from taking any further steps in the acquisition process.
The judge will resume the hearing on Wednesday (today) and also take up a contempt of court petition against RUDA’s Land Acquisition Director retired Col Abdul Basit, and Land acquisition Collector-IV Muhammad Zafar Iqbal.
Advocate Sheraz Zaka filed the petition accusing the respondents of violating the stay orders passed by the court against resumption of construction work and acquisition of land for the riverfront project.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021
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