A division bench of the Lahore High Court comprising of Justice Abid Aziz Shaikh and Justice Shahid Karim in a landmark judgment also declared all ‘No Objection Certificates (NOCs) issued by the Archeology Department as void.
The court in its verdict said that a committee, comprised of world-renowned experts, should be formed and the project should be completed within the light of the recommendations of the report of the experts and recommendations of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The court has outlawed the construction of the train project at 11 sites including Shalimar Gardens, Choburji, Gulabi Bagh, Aiwan-e-Auqaaf, GPO Building, Baddhu Ka Awa, Dai Anga Mosque, Lahore Registry of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Lahore High Court.
The bench declared all NoCs issued by the archaeology department as void.
The bench also dismissed all petitions regarding possible ecological pollution due to the construction of the train project.
The verdict stated that the recommendations of the advisory committee should be followed in order to stop the pollution.
Nearly 15,000 documents were produced for judicial assistance in the case. The court had reserved its verdict over the petitions against the Orange Line project on 13th July after 11-month long proceedings.
President of Supreme Court Bar Association and the amicus curiae in the Orange Line case Barrister Ali Zafar has said that there are judgments of the countries of United States, India and United Kingdom regarding the status of the historical sites, however, the judiciary has given a historical verdict today.
“The decision will save our history and will protect the city’s culture and history,” Zafar said.
The bar association president said that the decision is applicable to the whole country and the government will be bound to follow the court orders during construction of future development projects.
Barrister Ali Zafar in his arguments had given references of the Indian courts’ verdicts in similar cases with regard to historic Jantar Mantar, Taj Mahal and Humayun’s Tomb.
He said that Indian courts had stated in their verdicts that the historical status of these buildings could not be tampered or changed. “Multi-story buildings could not be built near these historical sites and there are court orders to demolish the buildings constructed illegally near historic buildings,” Zafar said.
The people from various walks of life including the civil society had filed petitions pleading to the court that historical sites in the provincial capital may be harmed due to the construction of the train project that will also increase pollution in Lahore.
The petitioners had also stated that the provincial archaeology department has issued NOCs for the construction of the train project without following proper legal procedures.