LAHORE - Declaring Signal-free Corridor project null and void, the Lahore High Court full bench issued detailed judgment of the project on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court, however, had suspected the impugned order of March 17 and directed the bench of the high court to issue detailed order in the case.

In its detailed judgment, the full bench of LHC annulled the Signal-free Corridor and stopped the LDA from the construction of the said project for being unconstitutional.

The court also directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to initiate an enquiry against the Director Generals of LDA and the EPA for failing to comply with the law and to account for the loss of public money to the tune of Rs 60 million.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and consisted of Justice Muhammad Yawar Ali and Justice Ayesha A Malik announced the verdict.

The bench held that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was responsible for protecting the environment but it was operating under a Director General (DG) who was a civil servant appointed by the Provincial government and thus it was being controlled and dictated by the parties it regulated, (in this case the Provincial Government) thus, the EPA was under regulatory capture.

The bench observed that environmental justice was embedded in the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and highlighted the importance of EIA.

It held that the EIA was not independently reviewed by EPA being captured and beleaguered and that the review process was deficient in material particulars and could not be sustained, thus, the Bench set aside the EIA approval of the project.

The bench exhaustively thrashed out the conceptual frameworks of Local Government System while tracing the history of Local Government System in Pakistan.

The bench also comparatively analyzed the Local Government Systems of South Africa, India and Pakistan.

The bench then embarked upon a fruitful discussion upon the scope of Article 140A of the Constitution, while examining the concepts of federalism, local government, democracy, devolution and subsidiarity.

The bench examined vires of various provisions of Lahore Development Authority  Act, 1975 and held that the powers and functions of LDA under Sections 6, 13, 13A, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 23, 24, 28, 34A, 34B, 35, 38 and 46 of the LDA Act 1975 to the extent they usurped, trumped, encroached, diluted and abridged the powers and responsibilities devolved on to the representative of the Local Government System under Art.140A of the Constitution through Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 were ultra vires Art.9, 14, 17, 25, 32, 37(I) and 140A of the Constitution.

The bench came to a conclusion in this respect that the Local Government System, while drawing its design and recognition from the constitution, draws its powers from the provincial legislature, however, the executive authority of the provincial government in the absence of any legislation, in any case, could not extend to the affairs of the Local Government which operated under a legislative structure.

Imrana Tiwana, I A Rehman, Ayaz Amir, and Faryal Ali Gohar and others had challenged the Signal Free Corridor Project.