ISLAMABAD - The Panamagate verdict will have enduring consequences, set a new precedent and be remembered for centuries, said Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan of the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The judge made this observation when Khawaja Ahmed Hasan, representing the civil society group in the Orange Line Metro Train project case, recalled that on the conclusion of the Panama Leaks case, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had said its judgment would be very crucial and remain relevant even after 20 years. Ahmed said he expected the same kind of judgment would be passed in the metro train project case.

Ahmed appeared before a five-member SC bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal, which took up appeals of NESPAK, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), the Punjab Transit Authority and the Punjab government against the Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict.

On August 19, 2016, the LHC 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 Ejaz Afzal Khan remarked: “Its judgment will not be for an individual, but in accordance with the law and will be remembered for centuries.”

The three judges of the bench — Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan — were also part of the five-member bench which heard the Panama Leaks case whose judgement was reserved on February 23.

Ahmed said verdicts of these cases would be remembered for a long time. Justice Saeed said: “We know if we pass a wrong judgment and heritage sites are damaged, then this will be a burden on us and we will be carrying this cross forever.”

Ahmed prayed to the court to dismiss the appeals and uphold the LHC judgment. He argued that there would be clearly visual impact on the historical buildings and there was no material on record showing that no damage would be done to the heritage.

The counsel for the civil society group said no assessment of the foundation of the structure and the soil had been carried out. He said neither appraisal of the vibration nor geo-technical study of the project had been conducted.

Justice Saeed asked him to show a report which pointed out the loopholes. Justice Ijazul Ahsan inquired whether his client’s focus was on the visual impact of the heritage or technical issues of the project. He said the NESPAK has conducted study of the soil and it was confirmed by the TYPSA expert.

Justice Ejaz asked the counsel if he had objections on the project and felt that the analysis carried out by the experts was incorrect. He should furnish the court his findings, the judge said.

He said a civil engineer would tell about the technical side of the project and not the law experts. Justice Ejaz said once someone asked Hazrat Ali (RA) about the number of hair on his head. Hazrat Ali questioned: “If I tell you, how will you verify it?”

The counsel said there was no data on the accumulative impact of the vibration. Ahmed argued that TYPSA should have pointed out certain inconsistencies, but it had not done that. He said the TYPSA seemed to have compromised the issue.

Justice Ejaz asked the counsel though it was a public litigation, why his client did not wake up at the right time. The judge said there is a proverb, “a stitch in time saves nine”. The judge said the appellants had taken into account the worst scenario and, according to them, there would be zero-level vibration.

Justice Saeed asked the counsel if he wanted the entire project to be abandoned and the taxpayers’ money to go waste. Ahmed said that some remedial measures should be taken to avoid damage to the historical sites. The heritage should be saved by constructing an underground route. Justice Ijaz noted that it would cost extra $400 million, adding the underground work would entail boring which could create a high-level vibration.

Ahmed completed his arguments while Asma Jehangir will start appearing before the bench from today (Wednesday).