Govt dilutes punishment for building bye-law violations

A tilted building in Bengaluru. The latest notification issued by the government removes the imprisonment and limits the bill to a penalty for first two offences. DH File Photo for representation

Five months after withdrawing a notification to punish errant officials who fail to check illegal constructions, the state government has notified a new set of rules diluting the stringent punishments, like jail term, and replacing them with a penalty. 

Pulled up repeatedly by the Karnataka High Court over illegal constructions, the state government in October 2018, had notified punishment for 52 violations ranging from irregularities in according permission to failure to inspect buildings during construction and to the errors in occupation certificate.

The punishments ranged from the imprisonment of up to two years for some of the offences besides a penalty of Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000. In June, however, the state government withdrew the notification without giving reasons. 

However, in June 2019, the department withdrew the notification and started reworking on the penalties. “The revised notification, which was issued last month following a PIL in the High Court of Karnataka, is a watered-down notification removing all the stringent punishments,” sources in the government said.

The latest notification removes the imprisonment and limits the bill to a penalty for first two offences and allowing the commissioner to take a call on the punishment for subsequent offences.  

The source said the rules were diluted after hundreds of officials, especially engineers, wrote to the Urban Development Department objecting to the stringent rules.

“Engineers, especially from BBMP, stated that they would not be able to carry out any work at all if such rules are enforced. The argument is that engineers only execute the decisions and instructions given by their superiors and corporators,” the source said.

A senior official confirmed the development but said the commissioner, at city municipalities and corporations, still has the power to suspend an official or even dismiss those he has the power to appoint. 

The source noted that too much of discretionary power is given to the commissioner. “Without delineation of the offences, everything is left to the whims of the commissioner. In a city like Bengaluru, paying Rs 50,000 fine is nothing for those earning lakhs of rupees through irregularities,” he said.

The revised rules are likely to be notified in the next two months.

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