Several misgivings raised about its legality as well as procedural complications in its implementation

The implementation of Akrama-Sakrama scheme to regularise violations of building bylaws in urban areas is set to open a Pandora’s box. Several misgivings have been raised about its legality as well as its procedural complications in its implementation that could result in a legal recourse.

This scheme not only puts a law abiding citizen in a disadvantageous position, but also does not guarantee that the violations would be curbed in future. People, who are likely to violate in future could believe that there would be another window of opportunity in the name of “public good and compassionate grounds”, sources in legal circles believe.

While the Governor gave his assent to The Karnataka Town and Country Planning and Certain Other Laws (Amendment) Act 2009 in August 2013, the State Cabinet recently decided to extend the cut off date from December 2, 2009 till the date of promulgation of an ordinance to this effect.

Through this amendment, changes have been brought to three crucial legislations — Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act 1961, the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act 1976 and Karnataka Municipalities Act 1964 — that govern urban development. A senior official in Urban Development Department said that the rules were being framed to give effect to the scheme.

The scheme seeks to regularise up to 50 per cent violation of setback norms and permissible floor area ratio in residential buildings and up to 25 per cent in non-residential buildings. Any violation above this would attract demolition.

Lakhs of properties could be regularised under the scheme in eight municipal corporations governed under the KMC Act of 1976, 44 city municipal councils, 94 town municipal councils, 68 town panchayats and six notified area committees governed by the KMA Act 1964.

Against principles

“Akrama-Sakrama undermines the principle on which the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act 1961 has been formed. While the Act envisages organised development of urban areas, Akrama-Sakrama provides benefit for those who violated the Act. Large-scale violations were allowed due to the failure of the government machinery,” a former official of the Law Department said.

Besides, the scheme also undermines the Master Plans that were formed with public consultations. The officials first allowed the sanctity of the plan to be violated by the offenders and this violation is now being sought to be legitimised, he pointed out.

Legal experts are also of the opinion that the amendment in the current form is not clear.

There is no clarity on how a building that violates both set back norms and permissible floor area will be treated.

‘Fertile ground for corrupt practices’

“If this interpretation is allowed to be made by executive, it could become a fertile ground for corrupt practices,” another official said. Several lakh properties are to be assessed in urban areas, including Bangalore, across Karnataka for regularisation for set back and floor area norms.

“During regularisation process, self assessment of property owners cannot be believed and physical verification is required by officials. Do we have the manpower to conduct such a massive exercise?” asked another official in the Law Department.

“Not only that, who would decide what portion of the building where violation is found beyond permissible limit (under the amendment act) is to be demolished? Will the government have the will to undertake demolition,” he questioned.

Further, he pointed out that the scope to allow structural engineers to certify safety of buildings could be misused.

According to legal experts, the amendment Act and the anticipated ordinance could be questioned for being “unconstitutional” since the scheme could actually be against public good, especially for those law-abiding citizens.

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