The Supreme Court of Pakistan has dismissed appeals against the interim order to restore the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) and said that the Lahore High Court (LHC) has given a final verdict in this regard, however, the Punjab government can challenge the decision of the LHC if it wants.
According to details, the apex court, while dealing with the appeals of the Punjab government against the interim order of the LHC regarding suspension of RUDA said that the interim order has been incorporated in the final decision under the law and since the final decision, appeals against the interim order have become ineffective.
During the hearing, RUDA’s lawyer requested the court for two weeks to review the LHC’s order on which Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan remarked that the LHC had given its verdict and there was no point in hanging the appeals.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Punjab government had challenged the interim order of the LHC which had stopped RUDA from working. However, the LHC on yesterday declared the Ravi Urban Development Project unconstitutional.
On the other hand, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) RUDA, Imran Amin informed this scribe that the Punjab government would appeal against the decision.
“Our legal team has briefed the Prime Minister in this regard. The court has raised objections to the Land Acquisition Act and this act is not part of the authority but part of the constitution. However, the objections raised by the apex court against this law will be settled by the Punjab government in a legal manner. The court did not say in its decision that the land acquisition that we had done was completely null and wide. However, the court did say that the procedure for notification of sections 4 and 5 of the law was not correct. However, we have not yet received a detailed judgment in this case,” CEO said.
The CEO further informed that the land acquisition authority is the Punjab Board of Revenue and any government agency that needs to acquire land has to contact that agency.
“Under this project, RS 3.75 billion has been spent on land acquisition so far. However, an area of 3,200 acres of river bed has been acquired. We had to start work on generalization and water barrages in this area. Similarly, the land acquired outside the riverbed covered an area of about 1,200 acres. Moreover, we were given an area of 102,000 acres which we had to manage and develop. We even had to collect property taxes in this area because the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) could not manage it,” Amin added.
When the CEO was asked why the authority did not prepare the master plan of the project, he replied that it was not so but the master plan of the project was made from 2016.
When asked if the land was really bought from the farmers at cheap rates, he replied that whenever the government has to acquire the land for any project, it is bought at DC rates.
“Here also DC rates were offered for lands. What happens now is that in order to access the DC rate, we look at three-year land registries and the DC rate is calculated according to the value of the land in them. In our country, people underestimate the value of land in registries to avoid taxes. However, when the land for this project has been acquired at DC rates, people have started demanding to sell it at market rates. However, we still negotiated with the farmers and listened to their objections. We have created a compensation package for the farmers to give them the file of plots along with cash. 40 to 50 per cent of the people have given us their lands whereas the land acquired in River Beds was not agricultural and SMBR (Senior Member Board of Revenue) paid from RS 200,000 to RS 350,000 per acre and also gave a plot file of seven marlas to the seller,” he said.
The CEO further informed that the apex court has ordered to repay the loan of RS 5 billion to Punjab government and the authority will appeal against this decision.