For “unauthorised” constructions and later steps taken for demolition of the same

The Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday found fault with Madurai Local Planning Authority chaired by the Collector as well as Madurai Municipal Corporation for having let 45 multi-storeyed residential as well as commercial buildings to be constructed in the city in the last few years and then taking steps for demolition by terming them to be “illegal” constructions.

Judge wonders

During the course of hearing a batch of writ petitions filed by the building owners against the LPA’s recent move to demolish the structures, Justice R. Sudhakar wondered how the LPA could turn a volte face suddenly after having received the charges paid by the builders over the years through the municipal corporation which had granted planning permissions for the buildings.

“Your (LPA) case now is that the Corporation was not authorised to issue the planning permission. But why didn’t you raise this question when the charges (amounting to several lakh of rupees) collected from the builders were deposited with you. You swallowed a big amount like a python and suddenly one day you wake up and say that everything was wrong. How can it be?” he asked.

The judge also wanted to know if the LPA could invoke its powers under Sections 56 and 57 of the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act 1971 for ordering either demolition of completely constructed buildings or halting construction of buildings that were halfway through without revoking the existing planning permission by invoking Section 54 of the Act.

Additional Advocate General K. Chellapandian, appearing on behalf of the LPA, said that the Corporation was entitled to issue planning permission only up to 200 square metres in case of residential buildings and up to 100 square metres in case of commercial buildings. Larger buildings could be permitted only by the LPA or the Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) in Chennai.

Flooding of applications

However, in view of flooding of applications before the LPA, the Madurai Collector by his proceedings issued on December 30, 1993 delegated the powers of issuing planning permission to all the buildings, which satisfy all rules in force and fall within the Municipal Corporation limits, to the local body itself.

The delegation was done as per a circular issued by the DTCP on September 24, 1993.

“Though the proceedings delegating the powers specifically stated that the planning permission should be issued only to buildings that satisfy all the rules in force, the Corporation transgressed its powers and granted permissions by overlooking various rules and regulations. The Corporation officials had also affixed their signature under the stamp that read For Member Secretary, LPA,” the AAG said.

He pointed out that the Corporation had recently initiated departmental action against the officials concerned and issued charge memos to them.

However, the counsel appearing for the Corporation contended that initiation of departmental proceedings was an internal matter of the local body and that could not be taken advantage of the LPA in the present batch of cases involving question of law.

Not in agreement with the argument advanced by the Corporation, the judge said that it could not take two different and contrary stands on the issue.

“It creates an impression that you are on the wrong side. You speak something in court and do something else outside the court. It is all shrouded in mystery. Unfortunately, your conduct will show you in bad light,” he added and adjourned the hearing to Thursday.

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