ISLAMABAD - The counsel for the civil society group yesterday said the Orange Line Metro Train project would cause physical impairment to historical buildings, which is also likely to damage the heritage.

The five-member Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal, is hearing appeals of NESPAK, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), the Punjab Transit Authority and the Punjab government against the Lahore High Court verdict. The counsel for the appellants said under the law the archaeology department director general was bound to give judgment independently. “The DG must have satisfied himself that there should be no work within 200 feet of heritage buildings and monuments. He should also be sure that it would not damage the heritage,” he argued.

He said neither he nor the judges were expert, but only the DG archaeology was. Justice Azmat Saeed asked him if he deemed the court could not decide the case and only an expert could give his opinion about the project.

The LHC, in its judgment on August 19, 2016, had stopped work on the project while setting aside the NOCs issued by the DG archaeology and the chief secretary’s committee under Antiquities Act, 1975, and Special Premises Ordinance, 1985. Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed the entire judgment of the high court was based on the report of the NESPAK. He said the apex court appointed two experts to examine the NESPAK report, but their findings were contradicting each other.

Justice Azmat noted that the LHC in it judgment had directed the government to frame rules. He questioned whether the high court could have issued such a direction. He replied ‘probably not’. He, however, said as there were no rules, the LHC must have issued the direction, adding that statutes were there to protect the monuments.

Justice Maqbool Baqir directed the counsel to show the apex court missing links in all the three reports. He alleged the NESPAK has a financial interest in the project. He said the total amount of the project was given to the NESPAK before the contract was signed.

Justice Ejaz inquired whether the NESPAK’s advice to the government was in its own interest. The judge asked him to tell the court if any advice was partial.

Earlier, Asma Jehangir, also representing the civil society group, said new documents have been submitted to the apex court, which had not been furnished to the LHC. She sought some time and requested the court to adjourn the case.

The bench said she only has to defend the high court verdict. Justice Ejaz asked Asma that she had contested the case before the LHC, so each aspect of the case should be on her fingertips. The judge said they were giving importance to the metro train case by deferring other cases.

Abdullah Malik, a petitioner, told the court that his counsel, Azhar Siddique, was ill and sought adjournment of the case, adding if his request was not entertained, he should be allowed to change the counsel. Justice Sheikh Azmat said: “Are you trying to blackmail the court by bringing a large number of lawyers to influence us?” He said, “This is the Supreme Court of Pakistan and not a civil court of Sheikhupura”.

Asma said she was ready to plead the case, but she would not be able to respond to all the queries for palpable reasons. The case was adjourned until today (Tuesday).