Master plan or servant plan? SC poser to Karnataka

The Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court has pulled up Karnataka for allowing illegal constructions and tweaking the master plan that helped upmarket localities such as Sadashivanagar come up in Bengaluru. 

“You can’t allow changes in the master plan to justify illegal constructions. Is it permissible? To suit your convenience, you change your master plan. Should we call it a master plan or servant plan,” a three-judge bench led by Justice A K Sikri asked Karnataka’s Advocate General Udaya Holla on Tuesday. 

The bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah, is hearing several petitions against the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order of May 4, 2016, stipulating a 75-metre buffer zone around lakes, 50 metres around primary, 35 metres around secondary and 25 metres around tertiary rajakaluves (stormwater drains) in Bengaluru. No construction would be allowed in the buffer zone. The NGT passed the order on a plea by the NGO Forward Foundation. 

The court asked the advocate general how did illegal constructions come up in different parts of Bengaluru. 

“(The) question is even if the law prohibits it, your superintendent or junior engineers would allow illegal construction. Even in residential areas, we see 10-storey commercial buildings. It is happening all over the country, including in Delhi. It is due to lack of will and obviously corruption,” the bench remarked. 

There are some cities like Chandigarh, where the authorities have so far not allowed illegal constructions, it added. 

Criticising the NGT’s judgement, Holla stated that the question was whether the tribunal could interfere with statutory regulations. He said the tribunal ordered maintaining the buffer zone even though nobody had approached it against the provisions of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act. The advocate general argued that the general public would suffer “grave consequences” if the NGT’s directions were allowed to sustain. 

The apex court, however, noted that maintaining the buffer zone should make everyone happy as 60% of waterbodies had vanished and Bengaluru faced acute water scarcity. 

The arguments in the matter remained inconclusive and would continue on January 15. 

The Karnataka government, the BBMP and real estate developers Mantri Techzone, Core Mind Software and Services Pvt Ltd and others have filed separate petitions before the Supreme Court.

They contend that the NGT has amended the validly enacted Revised Master Plan 2015 by increasing the distance of the buffer zone from 30 metres to 75 metres around lakes and by changing the methodology by which the buffer zone in case of rajakaluves was to be measured. 

The top court subsequently stayed the NGT’s another order imposing a fine of Rs 139.85 crore on two Bengaluru-based realty developers for carrying out construction near Bellandur and Agara lakes in violation of environmental norms.

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Master plan or servant plan? SC poser to Karnataka

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