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SC tells off LDA over commercialisation policy

LAHORE: A two-member bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the owners of high-rise buildings in the city to file details to the court about the cost of land, area and covered area, and parking space of their buildings.
The bench was hearing a review petition filed by the owners against an SC judgment declaring illegal high-rise buildings that violated regulations or encroached on public land.

During the hearing, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar observed that no one had the right to encroach upon public land, roads or footpaths. “The roads will remain roads and parks will remain parks for the larger benefit of the public. The court will not do injustice to any party. It will give its judgment in the case after hearing all the stakeholders in the matter,” he said.

Justice Nisar asked the director general of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) why the authority allowed people to convert residential property into commercial property “despite knowing that it is a very dangerous thing for the city”.

“It is a violation of Article 23 of the Constitution that a citizens buys property in residential areas and you, the LDA, give them permission to use it for a commercial purpose against a small fee,” he said.
The director general said the commercialisation policy had been frozen and no one was being given permission to use residential property for commercial use. He said of the 52 thoroughfares in Lahore city where commercialisation was allowed, permission was being granted under the old policy on 48 roads.

“This is wrong and I have suspended one assistant director and two deputy directors for misuse of the policy,” he said. The judge asked why, in that case, the LDA had recently allowed the Labour Department to open an office in Garden Town.

He said that the LDA took no action when powerful people broke the rules, but if a poor person was caught running a business in a residential area, the LDA threw the book at him.

At this, Advocate Mohammad Azhar Siddique said the then LDA and Housing and Physical Planning Department had made new rules for commercialisation in the Punjab which he had challenged before the High Court. He said the new rules violated Articles 9, 23, 24 and 25 of the Constitution.

The court directed the DG to submit the new commercialisation rules at the next hearing next week.

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