Making it clear that the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) can collect improvement fee only for creation of basic infrastructure in the newly added areas to the city and not for routine infrastructure maintenance, the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday held that BBMP’s entire exercise to determine the fee appeared to be “very casual”.
Quashing the September 28, 2012 circular fixing Rs. 550 as improvement fee, the court on Wednesday said that all that the committee constituted to rework the fee did was randomly choose two wards in each of the four new zones and calculated expenses already incurred and projected expenses for the remaining works based on the rates fixed by the Public Works Department.
Ad hoc calculation
The court also found that though the committee had stated that Rs. 970 per sq m was the average fee required to be collected based on PWD rates, it deducted 40 per cent of as some amount was already collected and expended and later it rounded off to Rs. 550.
Justice Bopanna, in his verdict, explained that the committee’s deliberation does not make it clear whether the expenses were made towards creating infrastructure or its regular maintenance while pointing out it is the statutory duty of the BBMP to maintain infrastructure and facilities even in the old areas of the city from its funds collected from property taxes and so on.
The committee has not demarcated the infrastructure provided in the new areas since 2007.
Neither did it mention any marked difference in the expenses incurred or to be incurred both in old and in new areas.
The court also said there was no basis regarding the 40 per cent deduction.
Justice Bopannna said certainly the erstwhile city municipal councils, town municipals councils and panchayats had provided certain facilities when these areas were in their jurisdiction prior to January 2007 and the BBMP cannot deem them utterly bereft of any development. Many property owners might have paid development fee or betterment fee to the erstwhile civic authorities prior to 2007 and such owners should have an opportunity to establish such payments so as to eliminate “double levy”.
A method should be devised in this regard to give property owners to seek deduction or adjustment based on proof of payment.
While giving liberty to the BBMP to redo that process to determine the appropriate improvement fee, the court reiterated that BBMP cannot make payment of such fee as precondition for registration, transfer, bifurcation, or amalgamation of khatas.