LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday reserved its judgement in a set of petitions challenging the land acquisition for the Riverfront Urban Development Project (RUDP) and violations of environmental laws by the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda), the executing body.

In the concluding hearing, Advocate General of Punjab (AGP) Ahmad Awais advanced his arguments in favour of the project. He opposed the petitions saying the project was of public importance and the court lacked jurisdiction to interfere in the policy affairs of the government.

Advocate Amina Qadir, who was appointed as amicus curiae by the court, submitted that the project in question was not of public purpose. She said the government had been unable to justify the project keeping in view the public trust doctrine as Punjab would be bereft of its fertile plains.

She further said that there was no adequate compensation mechanism defined for the people whose land had been forcibly acquired.

Previously, Ruda’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar in his concluding arguments had argued that the project was environment friendly and would ensure conservation, clean air for Lahore and include within it a massive forest.

The farmers, land owners and developers had filed the petitions through lawyers Sheraz Zaka, Ahmad Rafay Alam, Azhar Siddique, Waqar A. Sheikh and others.

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.

The judge had stayed the process of land acquisition for not meeting the legal requirements and environmental laws.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2021

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