RAWALPINDI: The Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench on Wednesday admitted a petition for regular hearing against establishing a crowded food street in already congested Hospital Road in Rawalpindi amis increasing number of Covid-19 cases.

LHC Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf issued notices to the executive officer of the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board and Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Rawalpindi and adjourned further hearing for a week.

Counsel for the petitioner advocate Kashif Ali Malik pointed out that converting a section of public road/street into a food street, is purely a commercial activity.

He argued that the referred section of Hospital Road leading from the Haider Road to the Bank Road intersection has been blocked for general public and vehicular movement during the peak hours of the evening causing grave hardship and inconvenience to all the inhabitants of the area, people visiting Cantonment Hospital as well as the commuters who visit or pass through the area.

Furthermore, at a time when the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic has gripped the country the respondents have blocked a section of the Hospital Road which leads to Cantonment General Hospital and other areas during the peak hours of the evening causing great inconvenience not only to the emergency and rescue services but also those visiting cantonment hospital, he added.

The petitioner while travelling from Haider Road towards the Cantonment General Hospital in the evening, found a section of the road closed for vehicular movement. On enquiry, he was told that the road was blocked by the respondents/Cantonment Board by establishing a food street.

Pertinently, the said road/street was earlier blocked for the same purpose initially in the year 2015, but later on it was opened for the traffic.

The matter regarding reopening of the food street by blocking the Hospital Road was also reported in the leading national newspapers.

Giving details of the vicinity of the food street, advocate Malik said the area in and around Rawalpindi Saddar including Mall Road, Haider Road, Hospital Road, Murree Road and Bank Road usually got too congested for vehicular movement during the peak hours of the evening.

The commuters get stuck in long queues of traffic for a long period of time due to the congestion in the area.

It gets even worst for the rescue and emergency services vehicles to move in the area.

He argued that establishing the food street by blocking the Hospital Road also defies common sense and logic. At a time when the entire world is under the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic and public gatherings are being discouraged, the respondents had established the food street by ignoring all health and safety warnings.

He pointed out that the section of the road and its footpaths are completely blocked and the openings thereof are cordoned in the evening because of the food street as stalls and carts are placed thereon indiscriminately by the stall holders and vendors.

The stalls, carts and other items are left at the site by the stall holders and vendors.

The petitioner raised this issue at various levels and forums, however, none has bothered to respond to the same and take corrective measures in the best public interest, the counsel said.

According to the petition, the site is a public road/street meant only for the collective use of the public and vehicular movement, therefore, the same cannot be put to any other use let alone commercial.

Under the law no one has the right to stall, fence, launch a project and create obstruction or make encroachment of any kind on a public street.

The petition requested the court to set aside decision of establishing the food street by blocking the section of hospital road.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2021

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