Corporators oppose UDD plan to prosecute officers for illegal constructions
Government officials who allow illegal constructions could be imprisoned and penalized. That is if the draft notification of the Urban Development Department (UDD) to amend the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act (1976), allowing for imprisonment and penalty, goes through. However, chances are that the UDD itself could withdraw the proposal.
The draft notification issued on November 27 calling for objections and suggestions from the public faced stiff opposition from Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palika (BBMP) corporators at the council meeting on November 29.
This is for the first time that the UDD has made a move to prosecute officials responsible for unauthorized constructions.
Opposing the amendment, BJP corporators said the proposed amendment was not possible when the case of AkramaSakrama (regularisation of building deviations) is pending before the Supreme Court. They even staged a walkout opposing the draft notification.
The state government drafted the notification in response to a PIL filed by city-based lawyer Umapathy S, who questioned the delay in prescribing punishment for erring officials under Section 321B of the KMC Act.
Section 321B inserted into the Act in 2007 allows the commissioner to impose a penalty on jurisdictional officers for failing to prevent unauthorised deviations. “Though more than 11 years have passed since that insertion, the Urban Development Department has not prescribed any punishment to make it enforceable and, as a result, BBMP officials who are expected to prevent such illegal constructions are protected by legal lapses,” the petitioner had said.
In response, the UDD filed an affidavit in the HC last week informing the court that the draft notification prescribing punishment has been issued. The draft notification lists out 52 types of offences officials could commit/have committed while allowing unauthorised constructions. The penalty for these offences varies from ₹2,000 to ₹50,000 and imprisonment ranges from 10 days to two years.
UDD officials, however, said there is a plan to withdraw the notification, although they refuse to admit that it has anything to do with the pressure being applied by councilors on it.
“The department did not follow due procedure in issuing the draft. Since any amendment made to the KMC Act is applicable to all municipal bodies across the state and not just the BBMP, we should have consulted the directorate of municipal administration while preparing the draft. Also, we did not take opinions of the BBMP council and other city corporations. This could lead to legal trouble,” a senior official at the Urban Development Department said.
But, citizen activists feel withdrawal of the notification and issuing a new one could lead to dilution of the proposed amendment. “Fundamentally, the proposed amendment to hold officials accountable is a good step. So far the BBMP commissioner did not have the power to prosecute his own officials. But going by the corporators’ resistance to the amendment and the way the Nexus works, it is highly possible that the UDD will tweak the draft,” said Vijayan Menon from Citizens’ Action Forum, one of the petitioners in the AkramaSakrama case. However, it will not be so easy for the UDD to withdraw the notification given that the government has submitted the draft to the court.