LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday imposed a fine of Rs500,000 on the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda) for changing counsel on every other hearing and filing unwarranted applications seeking vacation of stay against the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project.
Justice Shahid Karim was hearing the main petitions against the project when Advocate Shazib Masud appeared to plead an application of Ruda against the stay. The judge expressed displeasure over the practice of Ruda of frequently changing its counsel. He said the practice showed mala fide on part of the government.
The judge did not allow Advocate Masud to represent Ruda and summoned its Chief Executive Officer Imran Amin on a short notice.
The hearing was resumed on the appearance of the Ruda CEO.
Justice Karim noted that Ruda previously changed four counsel and that too without seeking a mandatory no objection certificate from each predecessor. He said the latest counsel also appeared without the NOC from the previous one.
The judge dismissed the applications filed by the government and Ruda as withdrawn and imposed a fine of Rs500,000 on the authority. The judge also reprimanded the CEO for filing the application without his signature.
The CEO sought an apology from the court and said the project was in the public interest. He said the government had been unable to build a road due to the stay against the project.
The judge remarked that the affairs of Ruda showed that the multi-billion project was in the hands of incapable and incompetent people.
Justice Karim extended the stay order till Sept 14.
The petitions against the project were filed by Advocates Sheraz Zaka, Ahmad Rafay Alam and others on behalf of the farmers. The petitioners challenged the mode and manner of the land acquisition proceedings undertaken by Ruda for the project. They said the land acquisition collector, despite a protest by the landowners, passed 18 awards on a single day amounting to multiple billion rupees.
The petitioners also challenged the legality of forceful acquisitions of land for commercial purposes under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
Some of the petitioners questioned the legality of the Environment Impact Assessment of the project prepared by a non-registered consultant.
Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2021