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December 8, 2020

Ravi project to be ‘a game-changer’

Lahore

December 8, 2020

LAHORE:The need for creating a separate dedicated body for executing Ravi Urban Development Project stemmed from the fact that the existing departments and authorities were already tackling tasks for developing their respective cities and an independent authority was required to undertake such a massive project.

This was stated by spokesman for Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) SM Imran here on Monday. SM Imran observed that powers given to the authority under the RUDA Act 2020 will facilitate the quality execution of this project as per international standards for riverfront cities.

The project will prove to be a game-changer not only for Lahore but also for Pakistan by generating economic activities, large number of employment opportunities and elevating the life-style of the people, he expressed.

Referring to the immunity clause in the Act, he said that Section 4(2) of RUDA Act 2020 allows the authority to be taken to court which states, “The Authority shall be a body corporate, with perpetual succession and a common seal, with powers, subject to the provisions of this Act, to acquire and hold property, both movable and immovable, and may by the said name, sue and be sued.”

The ‘legal immunity accorded to its officers’ in RUDA Act 2020, did not mean that the Authority or its officers were above the law, he claimed and added that such clauses were always in the statute of any Authority to ensure smooth functioning of the government’s machinery, since they remove the fear of undue accountability and harassment ‘in respect of anything done or intended to be done in good faith’, so that a civil servant may not be unduly dragged to court for each and every action he takes or signatures he makes in his official capacity. The essence of these clauses lies in the concept of “good faith”; therefore the acts done otherwise are liable to be taken to the court and other relevant forums, he maintained.

Civil servants all over the world have to take decisions in good faith and therefore, the statutory clauses always leave room for such decisions to keep the wheels of the government in motion. Even in Pakistan, this is not the first legislation in which these provisions have been incorporated,” he stated.

While elaborating further the ubiquitous nature of ‘immunity’ and ‘jurisdiction of courts barred’ provisions, he mentioned that such clauses are essential part in various legislation such as Sec 22A, 22B of the Punjab Civil Servants Act, 1974, Sec 42, 43 of the LDA Act 1975, Sec 41, 42 of the Punjab Development of Cities Act, 1976, Sec 36 of NAB Ordinance 1999, Sec 22, 25 of the Punjab Right to Public Services Act 2019, respectively, etc.

He specifically mentioned the Section 42 and 43 of LDA Act, 1975 which provide similar immunity to the LDA and its officers and bar jurisdiction of the courts, respectively. He questioned whether such provisions prevent anyone from bringing legal proceedings against LDA and its officers. Despite the presence of these sections in LDA Act, thousands of cases are filed against LDA in various courts. It is up to the courts to decide whether certain act which is complained against was done in good faith or not. Therefore, hue and cry over inclusion of such clauses, which is a standard legislative practice, in RUDA Act is baseless and disappointing.

Section 48 of the RUDA Act 2020 states “No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceedings shall lie against the Authority, the Chairman, the Director General, any member, officer, servant, expert or consultant of the Authority, in respect of anything done or intended to be done in good faith under this Act’.

Moreover, section 49 of the RUDA Act titled “Jurisdiction of courts barred” states “Save as otherwise provided by this Act, no court or other authority shall have jurisdiction to question the legality of anything done or any action taken in good faith under this Act, by or at the instance of the Authority.” “The undue criticism is an attempt to disrepute the project in the eyes of the public which is already soaring higher than our own expectations and shall bring prosperity with sustainability to the area by addressing key issues and preserving water resources, while giving boost to the economic activities by creating new business and job opportunities”, he said.