THE Lahore High Court while issuing interim order on Friday restrained the Punjab government from the converting the recreational park of the Lahore Press Club Housing Scheme into residential plots and their allotment to 295 new members of the press club.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed passed the order on a writ petition moved by a council member of Lahore Press Club (LPC) Din Muhammad Dard who had challenged the proposed conversion of the park into a residential area. The court also issued a notice to the Punjab government’s secretary information, director general Lahore Development Authority, Parks and Horticulture, commissioner Lahore and outgoing president of LPC Sarmad Bashir for February 11.

The judge wrote in its order, “No plot shall be allotted to anyone upon park and no construction shall be raised.”

The petitioner, through his counsel, pleaded that Lahore Press Club Housing Scheme was launched in the Harbanspura area in 2005 under the Punjab Journalist Housing Foundation Act 2004. After fulfilling all the formalities, the land was allocated and the LDA chalked out the layout plan where the council members of the press club were allotted plots. He said the plan also included a public park over 110 kanals and huge expenses were spent on its construction and beautification.

The petitioner submitted that now Punjab government had proposed converting the land of the park into residential plots which, according to him, was illegal and contrary to the theme and plan of the scheme. He said the commissioner Lahore had made some follow-up arrangements as issuance of allotment letters whereas he was not competent to interfere in the affairs of housing foundation. He said re-planning of the scheme was based on malafide as it would violate and destroy basic structure of housing scheme.

The petitioner pointed out that adjacent to the existing housing scheme, huge private land was lying vacant from which acquisition of 581 Kanals 16 marlas land had not only been proposed for Phase-II of housing scheme but initial notification under Section 4 of the Land acquisition Act had also been issued in May 2007. He said the land would be a better place for allotment of plots to new council members of the press club. He said the area shown in the site plan for park in lieu of existing park was a private land and had not yet been acquired. He said amenities and rights offered to him at the time of allotment could not be encroached upon as the park was the common property of all the allottees.

Din Muhammad Dard submitted that under Rule 10 of the Punjab Private Housing Schemes and Land Sub-Division Rules 2010, a housing scheme should have seven percent or more open space while the public buildings should be on the area ranging from five to ten percent, adding that conversion of the park into residential plots would also violate the said provision.

He referred that the Supreme Court, in the case of Maulvi Iqbal Haider versus the CDA, had ruled that a public park earmarked in a housing scheme created fundamental right amongst the public to enter the park without any obstacle. He requested the court that the Punjab government might be restrained from converting the park into residential plots or for any other use.