Local agencies can acquire lands for development

B.S. Ramesh

BANGALORE: By upholding the acquisition of lands for Arkavathy Layout, the Karnataka High Court has demolished the myth that no authority or agency other than a municipality can prepare plans for the development of an area that falls under its jurisdiction.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Nauvdip Kumar Sodhi and Justice N. Kumar, which set aside a single judge order quashing the acquisition of lands, upheld the right of a specialised agency, in this case the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), to acquire lands for forming layouts.

Relying on several judgments of the Supreme Court and on the Constitution, the Bench observed that acquisition of lands for development is for public purpose and that the BDA Act, under which the acquisitions were made or development planned, was not contradictory to either the Karnataka Municipalities (KM) Act or the Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) Act.

Some of the respondents, who had challenged the acquisition, had cited Article 243-W of the Constitution saying that a municipality has to prepare plans for the development of an area coming under its jurisdiction. Therefore, it was these municipalities and not the BDA which can prepare a development scheme. The BDA had acquired lands in several villages and hoblis coming under the jurisdiction of local bodies other than the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike.

Another argument was that provisions of the KMC Act, as amended after the introduction of Part-9 A, would prevail over the provisions of the BDA Act. Thus, only a municipality could take up development, not the BDA.

Distinguishing between the development taken up by a local self governance agency, such as a municipality or a panchayat, and by a local body such as the BDA, the Bench said that when a local (elected) body undertook development works, it included social and economic development of the area. It has limited meaning when agencies such as the BDA undertake development, meaning developing a layout.

Development under the BDA Act thus refers to "underdeveloped" or "yet to be developed" areas within or adjacent to Bangalore. It, however, has no application to developed areas in Bangalore (here it is the BMP which has the powers).

The Bench referred to the Constitution and said the development plans referred to in several chapters did not mean carrying out building, engineering or other operations or making any material change. It meant an all-round plan for economic and social development of the people in an area. The stress was on giving local self-bodies the authority to perform certain functions democratically. Such bodies are elected and are not specialised agencies, which the BDA is.

It held that the BDA had been constituted for a specific purpose of developing Bangalore. Its primary function (to develop and form layouts) is one of the several functions, which a local self-governing body is expected to do. The BDA thus is a local authority.

The Bench also held that the amended provisions of the KM Act and the KMC Act do not override the BDA Act. All the three acts operate on levels different levels.

Pointing out that the BDA is not a municipality, the Bench said the provisions of the BDA Act are not laws relating to panchayats and municipalites. Therefore, presidential assent was not required for the BDA Act.