LHC approves construction on 18 percent of Doongi Ground land


A five member bench of the Lahore High Court on Friday gave green signal to the Punjab government to use a portion of a public park, Doongi Ground, Gulberg, to construct parking lot, library and bowling alley but at the same time ordered the government to maintain the rest of the area as a public park.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, allowed the Punjab government to use only 18 percent of the park’s land for the said developments. Justice Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Nasir Saeed and Justice Asad Munir were the other members on the bench. The court had reserved the judgment earlier on June 8.
Former Punjab government led by Pervaiz Elahi had started the project in 2006 to construct a multi-million worth IMAX theatre and shopping Mall at the park. However, a Karachi-based NGO, Shehri – Citizens for Better Environment (CBE), journalist Ardshir Cowasji and 11 residents of the area had challenged the construction, and the then LHC judge Justice Saeed Akhtar had stopped the construction through a stay order issued on February 23, 2006.
However, a division bench of LHC had vacated the stay order on March 9 but the Supreme Court restored the stay order of single bench and asked LHC’s larger bench to hear the case. Last year, Shahbaz Sharif, without waiting for the outcome of the case, had approved construction of library, gymnasium and bowling alley. Later, the Punjab government through its lawyer Raja Salman Akram had moved an application in the court seeking permission of the said construction.
Raja Salman had argued that a lot of money had been spent on the project and only 18 percent area of the park would be used for the project which would cost Rs 440 million to government. Petitioners’ counsel, Muhammad Azhar Siddique, argued that previously Punjab government had taken the stance that there was no park on the said place while it was a matter of record that the ground had been used for playing cricket for 50 years.
He said if the court allowed construction of parking plaza on the site it would become useless for sports. He said, actually the government wanted to cover up corruption of millions of rupees in the project. He pointed out that prior to 2008 general election, Shahbaz Sharif had publicly announced that original status of the park would be restored but it was not materialized.
Azhar said LHC could not go beyond the parameters set by the Supreme Court in its order. Petitioner’s counsel had submitted that the project was illegal and NOC was obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency.