Protection of property: Acquisition of land for Orange Line stayed

LAHORE: A Lahore High Court bench on Friday stayed the acquisition of land for the Orange Line Metro Train project in a petition seeking court declaration of the project as illegal and unconstitutional.

Justice Shahid Karim referred the petition filed by four residents of Kapoorthala House to the LHC chief justice for constitution of a full bench to deal with the matter.

Amjad Hassan Bhatti and others submitted through their counsel, Azhar Siddique, that the land identified by the government for acquisition for the project included a plot where they had constructed their houses and had been living for several years now. They said more than 50 families would become homeless if the government went ahead with its plan of acquiring the land. They said the government had started acquiring land without fulfilling the legal requirements.

The petitioners’ counsel said that the protection of property was an integral provision of the Constitution. He said the government could not be allowed to violate his clients’ right to own property.

Further, Advocate Azhar Siddiqe said the government was diverting funds to the Orange Line project from other important projects including those for provision of clean drinking water and enhancement of graveyards, education and healthcare facilities. He also said the government could not be allowed to tamper with the city’s master plan, particularly plans for amenities like parks, open spaces and roads and preservation of heritage sites.

The counsel said that if implemented the project would cause damage to several heritage sites along the route. He said sections of the General Post Office (GPO) building, the Shalimar Gardens and the Chauburji monument could be affected during the construction of the train.

The counsel further said that under Section 12 of the Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA) of 1997, no infrastructure project could be initiated without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for it. He said to his knowledge the government had not carried out an EIA for the project. “If it has been carried out, it must have been done without mandatory public participation,” he said.

Further, the counsel said that the project had been initiated without fulfilling legal requirements.

The counsel requested the court to declare acquisition of land and execution of the project in violation of the PEPA 1997 and constitutional clauses on fundamental rights.

The court issued notice to the provincial government and the Lahore Development Authority and adjourned the hearing.

Source URL: The Express Tribune