A Bill moved in the Assembly on Thursday seeking amendment to the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act to regularise unauthorised constructions came under fire from the Opposition benches.

The Bill which seeks to replace an Ordinance issued in 2011, provides for regularisation of unlawful land development or building constructed on or before March 31, 2013.

While Panchayat Minister M.K. Muneer maintained that the amendment was aimed at removing hardships for people facing difficulties because of minor violations in construction of houses, the Opposition members alleged that it would encourage land sharks and unscrupulous builders to flout the law with impunity.

Opening the debate, Babu M. Palissery alleged that the amendment was aimed at helping black money hoarders to evade the law and get away with violations by paying a fine.

Pointing out that there was no justification in regularising the encroachment of public places and other brazen violations, former Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac called upon the government to define the buildings to be regularised.

In his reply, Mr. Muneer said the regularisation would follow strict guidelines. The government, he said, would publish the details of the unauthorised constructions to be regularised. The fine proposed for regularising illegal constructions would act as a deterrent against future violations, he said.

The Bill which was later referred to the subject committee, also seeks to empower the government to redefine the boundaries of block panchayats by annexing or excluding neighbouring areas. It prescribes a fine for the president or vice-president of a panchayat who refuses to hand over charge of the office, documents, money or property to the successor on expiry of tenure.

The Bill includes a special provision for Non-Resident Indians to get themselves registered in the electoral rolls.

Mr. Muneer called for a political consensus on devolving more powers to panchayats. He said that steps had been taken to introduce electronic voting machines for the elections to local bodies next year.