The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday stayed acquisition of agricultural land for the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project and directed the registrar office to club all identical petitions and fix them before one bench.
Representing a public-interest petition, Advocate Sheraz Zaka argued before the court that the acquisition laws had been blatantly violated by the government and the farmers were being deprived of their precious land.
The counsel said compulsory acquisition would deprive the farmers of their agricultural land and it could pose food security threats in the future. He pointed out that a vast chunk of agricultural land being converted for the benefit of property developers was against the Convention of Biological Diversity that the government of Pakistan had also ratified.
Justice Ali Baqar Najafi observed that a similar situation had also been witnessed across the border in India where farmers were protesting against the government for subjecting them to commercial interests.
The lawyer said the government had not issued any notification to disclose any public purpose of the riverfront project which it was supposed to do under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act 1890.
He pointed out that in all other interconnected petitions, the LHC had already stayed work on the project with a direction to the provincial government to appoint an international consultant to prepare the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project.
Justice Naqvi restrained the government from the land acquisition till the next date of hearing on March 2 and directed the registrar office to club all the interconnected petitions so that it could be fixed before one bench.
The other day, Justice Shahid Karim had ordered the government to engage an international consultant for the EIA of the riverfront project. Previously, Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza had restrained the government from taking a final decision on the EIA being prepared by a local consultant.