Govt withdraws draft nomination against bylaw violators

The draft notification was issued following a rap by the Karnataka High Court which had given three months to the government to frame rules.

In a major setback to efforts to check building bylaw violations, the state government has withdrawn its draft notification prescribing punishment for officials who fail to check unauthorised constructions that have led to unplanned growth and rampant encroachment.

More than 12 years after amending the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act 1976 to add a provision to punish errant officials, the government had in November 2018 notified punishment ranging from Rs 2,000 fine to two-year jail for 52 different violations.

The draft notification was issued following a rap by the Karnataka High Court which had given three months to the government to frame rules. It was hearing a writ petition by Nama Krishnaiah, who had sought directions to take action against officials who had sanctioned building plan, which was later claimed to be in violation of rules.

The deadline to submit objections and suggestions to the draft notification was extended twice, with January 27, 2019, set as the last date. But the Urban Development Department issued an order last month stating the draft notification has been “withdrawn with immediate effect”, much to the chagrin of many who expected an end to unchecked building violations.

The 52 violations included illegally granting licence or refusing to grant licence which would attract a fine of Rs 2,000 and simple imprisonment of two days; regularisation of unlawful buildings attracted a fine of Rs 25,000 and simple imprisonment of one month.

The penalty would go up to Rs 50,000 and two-year imprisonment for several offences, including intentional refusal of construction or reconstruction of a hut. Owners of the properties faced three months’ jail for several offences.

V Balasubramanian, who was part of the A T Ramaswamy Committee which exposed that about 1.5 lakh acres of land has been encroached upon in Bengaluru, said the government can prevent most of the violations if it enforces the existing rules.

“Stringent rules are welcome. But the major reason for rampant violation is the lack of implementation and enforcement of existing rules. Large-scale violations have been normalised, if not regularised, because nobody wants to question them. Nobody wants to reclaim the precious land which belongs to the public,” he said.

Environmental activist Leo Saldanha said lack of rules will only embolden encroachers. “It is high time the government punished facilitators of violations besides the encroachers. There is no fear among either of them,” he said.

An official in the government said the notification has been withdrawn as many violations beyond the scope of 321 (B) were added to the list. “Work is going on to revise the notification,” he said.

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