LAHORE - The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday stayed demolition of many houses, including some in Bahria Town.

These houses were going to be demolished as part of the Ring Road widening project.

A division bench headed by Justice Shahid Karim and Justice Sajid Mehmood Sethi took up the appeal filed by the residents and Bahria Town. The bench issued notices to the Punjab government and sought reply at the next hearing on July 24.

Earlier, a single bench of Justice Amin Ud Din Khan had dismissed the petitions of Bahria Town and its residents against the Ring Road widening project. Earlier, counsels for the petitioners had requested the court to adjourn the hearing for Monday.

The government’s lawyer and the counsel for the Ring Road Authority had already completed their arguments. After hearing the parties, Justice Khan dismissed the petitions.

On Monday, Commissioner Abdullah Sumbal, Additional Advocate General Shan Gull and Samia Khalid appeared before the court. The law officers requested the bench to dismiss the appeal, saying that single bench’s written judgement had not been issued yet.

Answering a question about possible demolition of houses, Commissioner Abdullah Sumbal said “these houses will be demolished after consent of the town. No house will be demolished forcefully”.

The appellants said that in 2008 the government issued notices under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act for southern loop of the Ring Road Authority. They said that seven years later the government abolished land owners’ rights, including normal acquisition of land, according to which they could claim compensation or demand alternative land.

They said the government removed Section 5-A and Section 5 under which they had the right to file objections to acquisition of land. This removal was unconstitutional, they said. In 2015, the government acquired their land under Section 15 (4) of the said Act and did not give them right to objection, the petitioners said. The petitioners’ counsel had argued that the law under which the government was acquiring land was challenged before the high court and a full bench of the LHC was hearing the matter. The government authorities, he said, were acquiring people’s land like emperors and denying compensation to them.

After hearing both sides, the bench stayed construction of the project and sought reply from the government.