Master plan by BDA unconstitutional

The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has been conducting public consultations to prepare a Revised Master Plan 2031 for the city.

But this is unconstitutional as, in conformity with the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act (74th CAA), the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (KMC) Act of 1976 states that there shall be a Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) to prepare a ‘Draft Development Plan’ for Bengaluru.  The MPC has two-thirds membership of elected representatives of the third tier of government, that is, the municipalities and the panchayats in the area. The commissioner of BDA is only to be the secretary of the MPC.

Implicit in the constitutional amendment is the objective that the state government should devolve planning powers for metropolitan areas to the third tier of government and desist from itself making plans for them. 

But the state government has retained the provisions of the Karnataka Town & Country Pla­nning Act (KTCPA), 1961, which makes the BDA itself, which is under state government control, the independent planning authority for Bengaluru. The BDA Act of 1976 reiterates this.

So, why are there two planning bodies for Bengaluru? In addition, the state government is also making several plans for Bengaluru outside the master plan, such as for the steel flyover, the elevated corridors etc. All these decisions are not being taken by the MPC.
 
Also, while BDA prepares a mainly spatial and zoning plan, the MPC is required to prepare development plans on 15 items, including urban poverty alleviation etc, along with mechanisms for monitoring and assessing outcomes.

The 74th CAA further requires that the MPC plan ‘shall have regard to the plans prepared by the municipalities and panchayats in the area’ (which BDA is not required to do) and to enable this, the states may devolve to municipalities powers to prepare plans for ‘economic development and social justice’.
 
 To comply with this, the state government issued a GO, dated 14.12.2009, claiming that such devolution is “under active consideration of the government” and that government intends that “the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) which are elected bodies need to have a greater say in the preparation of Master Plans...”.

But the GO rationalised that Urban Development Authorities (BDA in Bengaluru) “for the time being” may continue to prepare the master plans. And as a sop to municipalities, the GO further stated that the master plans shall be sent to the municipalities both at draft and final stage merely for vetting.

Further, in a “Note on the 74th CA” on the Directorate of Municipal Administration’s website, the government has claimed that it has delegated to the ULBs powers related to urban planning by amending the KTCP Act and declaring 45 local bodies as Municipal Planning Authorities. If so, then why is it not happening?

No meeting held

It is not happening because there is a total vacuum in the KMC Act and MPC rules on how the municipalities and panchayats are to go about making their development plans and how citizens are to be engaged in this. The MPC rules say that the MPC shall ‘formulate guidelines for preparation of the draft plan by the municipalities and panchayats’. But the MPC, since it was constituted, has never been allowed to meet, or has never met long enough to prepare such guidelines!

The problem lies in the fact that once the 74th CAA was passed, the KTCP Act has not been amended to take away the planning powers of BDA.  This is the reality, although Article 243ZF of the 74th CAA clearly stated that any legal provisions, which are inconsistent with the provisions of the 74th CAA, unless amended or repealed earlier, “shall cease to be valid at the end of one year from the commencement of the 74th CA”, that is from 1994. Hence, the power of BDA to prepare the master plan for Bengaluru has become automatically void and the planning powers rest only with the MPC.

One understands the discomfiture of  BDA officials as existing law requires them to prepare the master plan as per the KTCPA, but they get hounded by citizens’ groups which insist that the constitutional body, the MPC, should do so.

The intent of the state government in not taking away the powers of BDA to prepare the master plan seems to be directly related to its desire to retain its stranglehold over Bengaluru through the BDA which is under its control.

The state government followed the mere letter of the constitution in 1994 by including the provision for setting up the MPC in the KMC Act.  But it did not constitute it for 20 years until the court ordered it to do so in 2013. But after constituting the MPC, it has systematically kept it dysfunctional.

The state government's real intent is not to devolve power downwards to the third tier of government comprising the MPC, municipalities and panchayats, which constitute a local self-government as per the spirit of the 74th CAA. The moot question is why the MPC and municipalities are not asserting their right to be self-governments.

(The writer is Executive Trustee of CIVIC Bangalore)
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