The LHC had on Jan.25 dealt a blow to the government's plan by declaring several provisions of the Ruda Act 2020 illegal.
The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday suspended the decision of the Lahore High Court (LHC) to scrap Prime Minister Imran Khan’s flagship project, the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project, and permitted the government to resume construction work on the portion of land where the owners had been compensated.
The LHC had on Jan.25 dealt a blow to the government's plan by declaring several provisions of the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda) Act 2020 unconstitutional.
Subsequently, the premier said his government’s legal team could not present the case before the LHC effectively followed by his indirect announcement that the administration will approach the apex court to contest the high court verdict.
While hearing the appeal filed by the Punjab government, a three-member bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan set aside the LHC verdict and ruled that the construction could go ahead on land where the owners had been paid.
However, it restrained the authorities from any work on any land where actual landowners were yet to be compensated. The bench also asked Punjab Advocate General Ahmed Owais the reason for not filing an intra-court appeal against the high court decision. To this, he pointed out that the Supreme Court was the ultimate forum for seeking relief.
The top court remarked that it will review whether intra-court appeals can be made, also saying that the respondents in the case could submit additional documents in the case within a month.
In its decision to scrap the project, LHC's Justice Shahid Karim had also declared the acquisition of agricultural land for the project unconstitutional and in violation of the fundamental rights of citizens.
He had also directed the Ravi Urban Development Authority to return a loan of Rs5 billion to the Punjab government within two months and ruled that the authority had failed to comply with the laws and initiated the project without a master plan. Justice Karim said the Ruda (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 also failed to cover legal infirmities in the law.
The judge ruled that the notification issued under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 had not been released in accordance with the law.
The land collectors failed to legally acquire the land for the project, the judge added. Farmers, landowners and developers had filed petitions through lawyers Sheraz Zaka, Ahmad Rafay Alam, Azhar Siddique, Waqar A. Sheikh and others.
The petitioners had challenged the mode and manner of land acquisition proceedings undertaken for the project by Ravi Urban Development Authority. They said the land acquisition collector, despite a protest by the landowners, passed 18 awards on a single day amounting to billions of rupees.
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