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April 18, 2015

Court bins signal-free corridor


April 18, 2015

A full bench of the Lahore High Court Friday scrapped the Punjab government Rs1.5 billion signal-free corridor project from Qartaba Chowk to Liberty Chowk via Jail Road and ruled that LDA could not launch a project after assuming the powers of local government.
The bench led by Justice Sayed Mansoor Ali Shah issued a short order on identical petitions challenging LDA authority to carry out such development projects and questioning legality of signal-free corridor project.
Justice Yawar Ali and Justice Ayesha A Malik were the other members of the bench.
The bench ruled that project had been launched without securing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and LDA could not assume the powers of local government system which, according to court, was pivotal for a strong and robust democracy. The powers and functions of LDA will always remain subject to article 140-A of the Constitution and Punjab Local Government Act, 2013.
The bench ruled, ‘The approval of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the construction phase of the signal-free corridor project granted by the Director General, Environmental Protection Agency Punjab dated March 19, 2015 is without lawful authority.’ ‘Considering that the Project has not commenced in terms of Section 12 of Punjab Environmental Protection Act, 1997, the said Project, if at all, can only be initiated after seeking permission/approval from the elected Local Government System concerned, as and when it is formed, the order said.
The bench directed the LDA and its contractor to remove all the construction equipment and construction works from the project site forthwith and restore the roads to its original position in the best possible manner. The court ordered that the LDA officers and EPA and EPD should be held responsible for allowing the project without obtaining EIA and causing traffic problems to commuters. ‘The officers of LDA and the EPA/EPD concerned shall be held personally accountable

for allowing the project to be mobilised on the site, causing traffic disturbance to the public, without first obtaining the approval of the EIA as mandated under section 12 of PEPA, the bench held.
The short order read as: ‘The Local Government System has been fully recognised as the third tier of government by the Constitution under Article 140A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973. Elected Local Government System at the grass root level is pivotal for a strong and robust democracy and actualises the Constitutional vision. The Constitutional mandate of an elected local government system cannot be diluted or encroached upon. Therefore, the provisions of Lahore Development Authority Act, 1975 (to be spelled out in detail in the main judgment) to the extent that they are in conflict with the powers and functions assigned to the Local Government System or in any manner assume powers and function devolved to the Local Government, in this case, Lahore Metropolitan Corporation, under the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 are declared to be unconstitutional and ultra vires Article 140A and the concomitant fundamental rights of the people.’ As a consequence thereof, the powers and functions of LDA shall always remain subject to Article 140-A and Punjab Local Government Act, 2013, the bench further held. ‘Till such time that the Local Government elections are held, which are scheduled for September, 2015, LDA will only attend to its existing ongoing projects and the day-to-day work regarding repair and maintenance but shall not embark upon any new project which encroaches upon the powers of an elected Local Government System under the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013,’ the bench said. The bench added that subject to the main judgment to be released later, we have issued this order. It is qualified that this short order in no manner limits the scope of the main judgment which may discuss other aspects of the case and include directions and orders which are not reflected in this short order, the order concluded.
The bench issued this order on identical petitions filed by Fahad Malik, Kamil Khan Mumtaz, Faryal Ali Gohar, IA Rehman, Imrana Tiwana and many others. The petitioners had termed the project against the environment and non-feasible for pedestrians and persons with disabilities. They also had said that the LDA was encroaching powers of local government by initiating such development projects which is illegal and unconstitutional.

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