The cash-strapped State government has revived Akrama-Sakrama, a scheme to regularise illegal buildings, to generate additional revenue in light of the economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Friday held a meeting with his Cabinet colleagues, including Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan and Revenue Minister R. Ashok, and asked the Urban Development Department to prepare in a week new guidelines for regularisation of illegal buildings. It was decided that the laws on regularisation of unauthorised properties would be reframed by studying the laws framed in other States.
According to estimates, there are 2.93 lakh unauthorised buildings in Bengaluru city, and more than 35 lakh across the State. “Unauthorised layouts/buildings/constructions in the State might have doubled now,” said a release from the Chief Minister’s Office.
Government officials said that for unauthorised houses in areas other than Bengaluru, double the tax would have to be paid for regularisation. The law permits imposition of 6% penalty on buildings which have violations of up to 50%. Above that, the government has the power to levy a fine of up to 25% of the market price for regularisation of the construction.
The revival of Akrama-Sakrama comes shortly after two similar proposals aimed at revenue generation — auctioning 12,000 corner sites across the State, expected to raise ₹15,000 crore, and the setting up of a Cabinet sub-committee to speed up finalisation of the modalities of regularising encroachments on Bengaluru Development Authority lands in 68 layouts in the city, expected to raise another ₹5,000 crore.
“It will generate a large amount of revenue as it involves regularising several lakhs of buildings in the State, an estimate of which is tough to make at this moment. It all depends on the penalty we levy,” said a senior Minister. The scheme has been championed by the BJP since 2007, but has failed to take off because of legal challenges.
However, implementing it will not be easy. Challenged by civic activists from the city, the scheme has been put on hold by the Supreme Court since January 2017. The government needs to submit the new guidelines to the apex court and get the stay order vacated.
The government is confident of overcoming the legal hurdles this time. “We will frame the new guidelines is such a way that the builders and the rich do not benefit. We will fix a ceiling on the buildings that can be regularised in such a way that only the poor and the middle class will benefit. We hope there will be no objections and the apex court will clear it this time,” Mr. Ashok said.
N.S. Mukunda, founder-president of Citizen’s Action Forum, one of the petitioners against Akrama-Sakrama, said apart from helping the rich, there are several other objections to the scheme on the grounds of natural justice. “The government should ensure the violator who built the building pays up, not the subsequent owners. Akrama-Sakrama will work as a one-time scheme to regularise violations, but doesn’t address the system that allows these violations to happen. We have demanded punishment for officials who let these violations occur. The scheme should not become an incentive for further violations,” he said.