Planning and democratic legitimacy: Who should plan for Bengaluru?

Constitutionally, the BBMP and not BDA should be tasked with the responsibility

March 11, 2017 10:41 pm | Updated March 30, 2017 06:55 pm IST

Deadline set:  The Revised Master Plan 2031 process is under way with the BDA in charge  and is slated to be completed by December 2017.

Deadline set: The Revised Master Plan 2031 process is under way with the BDA in charge and is slated to be completed by December 2017.

Last week, we assessed the objectives and failures of the Revised Master Plan (RMP) 2015 prepared by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) for Bengaluru. We concluded that prescriptive supply-driven plan delivered through an undemocratic process that masks political choices are among the primary reasons for its failure. The present effort of the BDA in preparing the RMP 2031 ignores these lessons. The RMP 2031 has received a stinging rebuke from civil society groups which have challenged the BDA’s constitutional legitimacy to make the plan as well as the inadequate public participation and consultation in the planning process. This week we untangle the debates on the institutional legitimacy for planning in Bengaluru and assess strategies to overcome the current impasse.

First, let’s begin by assessing the legal authority of the BDA to make the RMP 2031. Under section 81B of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning (KTCP) Act, 1963 the BDA is indeed the local planning authority for a 1,306 sq. km local planning area. However, the KTCP Act was enacted before the 73rd and 74th Constitution amendments in 1992 that mandated the creation of democratically elected rural and urban local bodies to act as institutions of self-government through the devolution of funds, functions, and functionaries. The very first item on the list of 18 functions in the 12th Schedule of the Constitution, which provides for the legislative devolution of functions by the State to urban local bodies, is ‘urban planning including town planning’.


Constitutionally, the elected urban local body — the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) — should be tasked with urban planning responsibility. Instead the BDA, a statutory authority accountable to the State government, performs the planning function. Both the Kasturirangan Committee Report on Bangalore’s Governance (2007) and the B.S. Patil-led BBMP Restructuring Committee (2016) have recommended that the BDA be divested of its planning and regulatory functions. Further, in States such as Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala, municipal corporations have an active role in the planning process.

While the non-devolution of functions by the State is not a ground for a legal constitutional challenge, the failure to devolve the planning function 25 years after the Constitution amendments gives rise to the current legitimacy crisis.

From the above analysis, it appears that the obvious next step is to amend the KTCP Act to designate the BBMP as the local planning authority. However, civil society groups in Bengaluru have pressed for the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) to be the planning authority. This dissonance reveals the need for a deeper look at the constitutional and legal architecture for planning in Bengaluru. First, the BBMP has territorial jurisdiction over 710-sq. km area, whereas the RMP 2031 is for an area of 1,306 sq. km. Second, the MPC constituted under the 74th Amendment is for an area of 1,306 sq. km, but is not a directly elected urban local body.

Thirdly, the Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Development Authority has already prepared and published a Revised Structure Plan 2031 for 8,004 sq. km for the Bangalore Metropolitan Region. So there is considerable confusion arising out of a plurality of institutions delivering diverse plans. So, while the MPC has jurisdiction over the RMP 2031 area, it is not an automatic choice as its constitutional role in the planning process is unclear.

The Constitution states that the MPC should prepare a ‘draft development plan’ for the metropolitan area, having regard to the plans prepared by the urban and rural local bodies within its jurisdiction. This draft development plan should be submitted to the State government. The Constitution is ambiguous about whether the MPC should have final authority over planning — in relation to the municipality or the State government — and the distinctive content of its plans from those of the elected urban local body.

Hence, the coincidence of territorial jurisdiction between the BDA and the MPC should not lead us to conclude that the MPC should replace the BDA as Bengaluru’s local planning authority.

So what must be done?

The Revised Master Plan 2031 process is under way with the BDA in charge and is due to be completed by December 2017. Given the tepid reception to the BDA’s efforts at public consultation, this process suffers from a deep democratic deficit. For constitutional legitimacy, a statutory amendment of the KTCP Act should replace the BDA with the BBMP and other local authorities in the 1,306 sq. km area. If this is unlikely in the present circumstances, another possible strategy would be to issue a Government Order requiring the BDA master plan team to report directly to a standing committee of the MPC specially constituted to oversee the master plan. Such a strategy has a greater chance of adoption and partially resolves the problem of democratic legitimacy for the RMP 2031. Resolving concerns of democratic legitimacy is only the start of a successful planning process: next we turn to the critical problem of scale.

(Sudhir Krishnaswamy is professor of Law and director of School of Policy and Governance, Azim Premji University, and founder-trustee of the Centre for Law and Policy Research,Bengaluru; Mathew Idiculla is research associate, Centre for Law and Policy Research, Bengaluru; Champaka Rajagopal is visiting professor, Azim Premji University, she has worked on Revised Master Plan 2015, for Bengaluru)

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