The Punjab cabinet, which met under Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, has approved a policy to regularise constructions on nearly two lakh individually owned plots in about 5,000 unauthorised residential colonies across the State. The implementation of the Punjab Laws (Special Provisions) Act-2013 was relaxed till March next for this purpose.

A spokesperson of the Chief Minister's office, through a statement said that the "significant step aimed at providing basic civic amenities" to the residents of these colonies by bringing all the unauthorised constructions within the ambit of the planning framework as well as to further facilitate the smooth implementation of the master plans across the State. The "new policy" which would ensure that the entire urban development was carried out in a holistic manner, would check the trend towards haphazard growth.

Only those unapproved colonies or the buildings constructed before the April 1, 2013, would be considered under this policy that would provide for compounding of offences under the Punjab Regional and Town Planning and Development Act 1995, the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act 1995, the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act 1976, the Punjab Town Improvement Act 1922 and the Punjab Municipal Act 1911. This one-time opportunity would be available till March 31, 2014, when the entire process would have to be completed. Constructions on land belonging to State or Central government, public undertakings, panchayat lands, Waqf Board and land under Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) would not be covered under this policy.

The unauthorised owners would be required to pay composition fee for compounding their offences, which would vary from area to area for the colonies developed before and after August 2007. The approximate rate of composition fee is expected to range between Rs. 2.5 lakh and Rs. 15 lakh per acre. Similarly the individual plot or building owners could come forward for regularization by paying the charges that could vary from Rs. 50 to Rs. 500 per square yard. The funds so collected would be used for providing basic amenities in these colonies.

In the event of a coloniser not applying for regularisation within 60 days of the notification of the policy, legal proceedings through registration of FIR would be initiated. Defaulting individual plot and building owners would face disconnection of power and water supply, sewerage connections as well as procedures for cancellation of the registration of the sale deed. While the provision of paying the regularisation charges in instalments was available, those making a complete payment would get a discount.

The Cabinet also gave green signal to amend the Punjab Municipal Act 1911 and the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act 1976, in accordance with the recommendations of the Cabinet Sub Committee regarding the imposition of property tax, besides securing revenue for the urban local bodies. It not only decided to revert back to the previous annual value system but also approved a slew of major concessions including a reduction in house tax levied at 15 per cent of the annual rental value for the commercial property to 10 per cent.

Similarly the rented residential property tax was brought down from 10 to 7.5 per cent annually. The rates for levy for non-rented commercial property were reduced from 15 to 3 per cent, while self occupied houses up to 50 sq. yards would be charged a consolidated Rs. 50 per year and those between 50 and 100 sq. yards would be required to pay an annual consolidated tax of Rs.150.

Widows and differently-abled persons have been given a rebate up to Rs.5,000 from property tax. All educational institutions which were not covered under charitable institutions would get a 50 percent rebate. The Cabinet also agreed to amend the Land Pooling Policy to enable the land owners to become partners in development process. Under this amendment a fixed sum of the value of land would be ensured to the land owners.