Wednesday, September 09, 2009

How Koramangala residents set the ball rolling

How Koramangala residents set the ball rolling

B.S. Ramesh
They went to court and it resulted in a series of demolitions

Law catches up: A file picture of a building being demolished in Koramangala in Bangalore.
BANGALORE: It was in 2005 that a group of spirited residents of Koramangala, a posh locality, filed a public interest litigation petition before the Karnataka High Court against illegal constructions and violation of land use in the area.

The petitioners, Devi Shetty and others, brought to the notice of the court the blatant violations by people and the failure of the civic agencies, particularly the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (there was no BBMP then) and the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) in curbing them.

Since it was a PIL, the case came up before the first court where a Division Bench comprising the then Chief Justice Navdeep Kumar Sodhi and Justice N. Kumar commenced hearing. Initially the court issued notices to the BMP, BDA and others and adjourned hearing of the case.

The case soon shook the Government and made the violators nervous when the Division Bench came down hard on the latter and decided that the best way to solve the issue was to raze all deviations and illegal structures.

The Bench also directed the BMP to conduct a survey of all blocks in Koramangala and submit a report on the violations. The BMP reluctantly began the exercise and its officials met with a hostile reception from residents and land owners of the area. Even as the BMP submitted the report, those at the receiving end of the demolition drive complained that some of the petitioners themselves had violated the sanction plan. The court asked the BMP to commence its survey from the houses of the petitioners and then issue notices, first a preliminary one and then a final notice before taking steps to demolish any violated portion of a building.

The court took a firm stand that any building, domestic or commercial, would have to be demolished if it violated the building plan. When the survey revealed large-scale violations, the court gave the go ahead to the BMP to take action. Some of the violators approached the Supreme Court against the High Court but to no avail. (The Supreme Court under the Chief Justice of India J.N. Khare was hearing cases relating to violation of land use and illegal structures coming up in Delhi.)

Sakrama scheme
Left with no option, several influential builders and elected representatives asked the Government to come to its aid. When efforts by the then Advocate-General B.T. Parthasarthy, on behalf of the Government, failed to deter the court from going ahead with the demolition drive, the Government came up with Sakrama scheme. It was meant to regularise building violation and illegal change in the land use. By then, the BMP drive against the illegal constructions in Koramangala had lost steam and residents began obtaining stay orders against demolitions.

However, the Koramangala case acted as a catalyst and residents of Sadashivanagar and Jayanagar too filed public interest litigations (PIL) seeking an end to violations.

CDP introduced
When the Sadashivanagar case threatened to become a big issue, the Government quietly, through the BDA, came up with a mixed Comprehensive Develop Plan (CDP) permitting mixed use of land in residential areas. Justice Rammohan Reddy, who had been hearing the cases for months, disposed of scores of petitions with a direction to the BMP to consider the application by residents and land owners of Sadashivanagar for change in land use and also allow commercial activity.

Soon after the Koramangala and Sadashivanagar cases, some residents of Mangalore got together under the banner of Citizens Forum for Mangalore Development and filed a PIL against builders of apartments and high-rise structures for violating the national building code and sanctioned plan. A Bench headed by the Chief Justice, P.D. Dinakaran, asked the authorities to take action in case of violations.


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