LAHORE: A division bench headed by Justice Shahid Karim and Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh of the Lahore High Court directed Punjab government to submit complete record of Orange Line Metro Train project and adjourned further hearing for tomorrow (Wednesday).

As hearing commenced, the counsel of the civil society told the bench that Punjab government had lied by concealing facts behind the Orange Line project. He said that Punjab Metro Bus Authority was the proponent of the Orange Line project. He opposed the reports filed by NESPAK and LDA. He argued that even, otherwise, the issuance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in favour of Lahore Development Authority in July 2015, hence, EIA is illegal and without jurisdiction as LDA officially became executing agency on August 25. It was contradiction, the lawyer argued, which showed mala fide intention of the Punjab government that initially Punjab Metro Bus Authority was the executing agency and later on August 25, LDA was made executing agency. It is a lie told by the Punjab government, the lawyer said.

He said no tendering process took place for appointing NESPAK as consultant and contract was awarded to CR-NORINCO, a Chinese company by violating merit and not providing level playing field.

PC1 of the project was approved without including acquisition cost and displacement cost in April at 1.626 billion dollars and ECNEC approved on 8 May 8, 2015 but intentionally for contract purposes on April 20, 2015, Rs.1.457 billion dollars was mentioned and in mala fides, August 25, it was revised to Rs.1.626 billion dollars.

About Rs 50 billion of acquisition cost was not included and as other displacement cost about Rs. 20 billion was not included and this amount was not included in PC, so, all the PC(s) may be summoned.

In view of clause 7 of April 20th contract the agreement can only be effective after signing of the Loan Agreement. The loan agreement with Axim Bank was signed on Jan 2016 at high mark up and without competition, the lawyer said.

He further argued that EIA Decision from Environment Pollution Agency was defective as department was short of staff and equipment and company that prepared technical report was not certified. He told the bench that in view of clause 11 of the decision of EPA without obtaining NOC and approval project cannot be started but project was started in July 2015 and NOC(s) from Archeology Department was allowed on November 14 and 30, 2015 and acquisition started in August was finalized Jan 16, hence all the work started by the Government of Punjab/LDA is illegal and attract criminal liability.

The lawyer stated that advisory committee under the Antiquity Act is defective and included favourites in order to get favourable decision, whereas civil society placed eight names of archaeologists and experts and requested for dissolution of Advisory Committee on February 22 which included Two MPA(s) and it was admitted by the LDA and Government of Punjab that Heritage Impact Assessment was made and vibration reports were obtained later on in Feb, 2016, which proved that NOC earlier issued was defective.

He argued that no information and documents have been placed on record and respondents were intentionally withholding the details. Their first stance was that Metro Orange Line is a part of CPEC and now it is not. He prayed to the court to summon complete record of the project.

The petitioners’ lawyer contended that Punjab Chief Minister was giving preference to the roads instead of meeting basic requirements including health as beds were not available in hospitals. He said there were not beds in Jinnah hospital when the injured of Gulshan-e-Ravi incident were taken there while Metro Orange Line Project is not approved from the Punjab Assembly.

 At this, Justice Shahid Kareem observed that loan agreements and any commitment of China will not take precedence over public rights. However, the law officer who was due there to submit written reply regarding contempt petition against Punjab Chief Minister could not submit his written reply.  The bench, however, asked the Punjab government’s lawyer to submit complete record of the project on the next hearing. The court adjourned hearing for tomorrow (Wednesday).

Earlier, the bench had stayed construction on Orange line project within 200 foot radius of historical buildings of the city including Chauburji, shalamar Garden, Buddu Ka Awa, Dai Anga tomb, GPO , Old building of SC registry, Saint Andrew’s Church and others.

Kamil Khan Mumtaz and others had filed the petition against the project terming it a threat to the cultural landscape of the city. They had prayed to the court to order the Punjab government not to destroy and damage the beautiful historic scenery of the city.