LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday issued a notice to the advocate general of Punjab and sought his assistance on the legitimacy of the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda).
Hearing a petition that challenged the vires of the Ruda Act 2020, Justice Shahid Karim observed that apparently there was no element of public welfare in the acquisition of land by the authority.
Representing the petitioner, a private developer, Advocate Waqar A. Sheikh argued that the impugned Act was unreasonable and ultra vires to the Local Government Act 2019 and Article 140-A of the Constitution.
He said the impugned law was also in conflict with the Lahore Development Authority Act 1975.
The counsel alleged the Ruda had been established for grabbing land from farmers and other land holders. He pointed out that the Ruda had not been established with funds meant for public purpose but loans had been obtained from the banks for acquiring land.
He said the Ruda appeared to be not formed for river Ravi rather a parallel authority of the government to patronise the developers having association with the ruling party-Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
He argued that the basic purpose of the impugned Act was land grabbing through state for the welfare of few developers. He asked the court to declare the establishment of the Ruda unconstitutional and also set aside all the notifications it issued till date.
Justice Karim issued a notice to the AGP for the second week of September.
Previously, the LHC had stayed the process of land acquisition by the Ruda for Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project without holding an environmental impact assessment of the project.
Several petitioners had challenged the mode and manner of the land acquisition proceedings undertaken by Ruda for the project. They claimed the hearing for the objections on the land acquisition was to be held on March 2, however, due to a law and order situation created on that day, no hearing could be held.
However, despite these circumstances, they said, the land acquisition collector of the Ruda passed 18 awards on the same day amounting to multiple billion rupees.
The petitioners also challenged the legality of forceful acquisition of land for commercial purposes under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2021