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ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government stated Ravi Riverfront Urban Development (RRUDP) Project is a matter of paramount importance of the provincial government as it involves a lot of financing by the foreign organization/groups.

Advocate General Punjab Ahmed Awais, on Thursday, appeared before a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and comprising Justice Muneeb Akhtar, and prayed to set aside the Lahore High Court (LHC)’s judgment.

He said the foreign delegation is arriving in Pakistan and that the project involves billions of rupees.

However, Justice Ijaz said the LHC’s detailed judgment was still not announced and that the Punjab appeal was still not numbered. He asked the AG to file CPLA and they will hear the matter on Monday (January 31, 2022).

The Punjab government through chief secretary filed Civil Petition for Leave to Appeal (CPLA) and prayed before the apex court to set aside the LHC’s judgment.

The LHC on January 25 announced its decision in the RRUDP project case, declaring the scheme “unconstitutional” on the grounds that it lacked a master plan. “Any scheme if established without [a] master plan is unconstitutional,” Justice Shahid Karim said, directing the RUDA to return the loans obtained from the provincial government for the project within two months.

The high court noted that proper procedure was not adopted in purchasing agricultural land for the Ravi Urban Development project in Lahore and Sheikhupura, therefore, it declared the practice of acquiring the land through amendment in Section 4 of the RUDA Ordinance “unconstitutional”.

The appeal said that the high court has not considered the fact, while passing the impugned order that the subject matter of the writ petition alongwith connected petitions have lost their efficacy upon the promulgation of the RUDA (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021.

The petitions could not be entertained on this wrong interpretation that it is usurping the powers of the Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975, which extends its tentacles only to the metropolitan areas of Lahore, whereas, RUDA was to extend the area specified in master plan of the authority comprising upon different districts.

The LHC has ignored the very fact that the respondents cannot challenge the polycentric matter in constitutional jurisdiction as it falls outside the domain of the judicial review. That even otherwise this fact has been ignored that in terms of Section 18 of the RUDA Act, 2020, the authority could make, maintain, meant, manage, enforce and keep in its custody the master plan of the area and Section 18 (2) of the Act provided that the authority shall in the prescribed manner exercise land use control and perform housing functions in the area without any interference from any other authority, local government or government agency.

The Punjab government submitted that the LHC has not even appreciated the very fact that the promulgation of the Act of 2020 and the RUDA (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 was to establish a comprehensive system of Planning and Development in the area specified in the master plan of the authority and is not in contravention with other laws.

It said that the LHC’s verdict is liable to be set aside on this score alone that it has been wrongly held that prior to the acquisition by the Collector under Section 4 of the 1894 Act, the Environmental Impact Assessment and approval is sine qua non.

The very scheme of the Environmental Protection Act, 1997 talks about a procedure, which is required to be fulfilled, which has already been completed in the instant case.

Therefore, on account of any alleged EIA the acquisition by the Collector in terms of Section 4 of Land Acquisition Act, 1894 cannot be scrapped.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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