Illegal structures get legal cover for one year

Jammu: The Legislative Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday to make certain provisions for Jammu and Srinagar cities and Katra town to stop any forcible action against unauthorized structures for at least one year.
“All notices issued by any local authority for initiating action against unauthorized constructions or Master Plan violations in respect of areas to which this Act applies shall be deemed to have been suspended until March 31, 2015 or until a policy is formulated by the government, whichever is earlier,” says the bill.
The bill (no. 5 of 2014) was introduced by Minister for Urban Development and Urban Local Bodies Nawang Rigzin Jora on February 21 in the House and was passed Tuesday after objections by a few legislators who were demanding some amendments in it.
Scores of unauthorized and illegal buildings were sealed by local authorities in Srinagar, Jammu and Katra following High Court orders last year.
The bill says “notwithstanding anything contained in the contrary in any law, or order, for the time being in force or any court judgment, no building or structure shall be demolished or sealed and no penalty shall be imposed in respect of such buildings or structures on the grounds of such buildings or structures having been constructed or erected in violations of Master Plan pending finalization of the policy under section 3.
“Provided that the provision of sub-section (1) shall not apply to such buildings or structures which has been constructed after coming into force of this Act or does not confirm to the safety standards as laid down by the government.”
According to the bill, the government will constitute a high power committee “to go into the depth of the reason for the unauthorized constructions suggesting remedial measures including the devising mechanism for the regulations of the building activities in the cities.”
The committee, which will comprise bureaucrats, planners, citizens, will also suggest the “fundamental principles for regulation or otherwise of the unauthorized constructions also suggesting the penal action for the regularization and the institutional structure for the process of regularization,” says the bill.
“The issues involved in the matter are many and highly complex. The magnitude of the problem is too huge to be solved through sealing/demolition/forcible action alone. A large number of residential/commercial and other buildings/portions(s) of the buildings could be unauthorized and or in violation of the permissible use as per the approved Master Plans. On this assumption, the number of families who will be affected by this drive would be very large,” says the bill.
It further says that all unauthorized constructions cannot be equated, and in terms of violations these could be categorized as “unauthorized encroachments and or construction on public land, unauthorized construction without any sanctioned building plan, unauthorized conversion of residential land use into the commercial purpose and other uses, unauthorized commercial construction or misuse and others.”
Accordingly, the bill says, the committee will look into the details of all kind of violations and the terms of references of the committees will be to make an assessment about the magnitude of the problem of unauthorized construction and misuse of plans, to assess various types of violations and put them in broad categories in terms of the nature of these violations, to identify the underlying causes leading to these violations, and suggest a feasible strategy to deal with these issues involved in the matter.
Further the committee will recommend policy and guidelines and development control norms for regulating construction activities in the respective local areas and suggest measures to prevent recurrence of such violations in the future including the structure and accountability of the enforcement machinery and to consider and other matter incidental or related to the terms of the references.
“The committee will be requested to finalize its recommendations within a period of six months which will be incorporated in the revised Master Plan of the respective areas,” says the bill.
The bill also says that if any local authority intends to take any punitive action against any person in respect of buildings or structures under several rules that have come up prior to coming into force of this Act, prior permission of administrative department of HU&DD shall be obtained before taking any such action.
“The Act shall not apply to buildings or structures which had not been completed on the date of commencement of this Act or which are currently under construction and buildings erected on public land road or any other public utility,” the bill says.
Earlier, during the discussion on the bill, PDP legislator, Zulfikar Ali while objecting the bill said the illegal structures were sealed on the High Court order and the bill means the non-implementation of the court orders.
“The bill will only help the rich people including hoteliers and businessmen and this will be discrimination against smaller shopkeepers against whom government is always ready to take action. The government sets different parameters for poor and rich,” Ali said.
National Panthers Party’s (NPP), Harsh Dev Singh also objected the bill by accusing the government of acting against the court orders.
“You are making the law no matter what court says. By passing this bill you are giving authorization to all the illegal structures in the state. Also if you are making such provisions in Jammu, Srinagar and Katra, what about the other areas?” said Harsh.
However, the bill was supported by NC legislators Nasir Aslam Wani, Shamima Firdous and BJP legislators including Ashok Khujaria and Baldev Sharma who said that the bill will not only help the rich but poor people as well who own shops in shopping complexes and have changed their houses into guest houses to earn their livelihood.
In response, Jora said that the bill is class neutral and government realized to bring this bill given the growth of urbanization in the state.
“The state has witnessed 98 per cent growth in urbanization and there is need to formulate the Master Plan which will identify new commercials areas in cities,” said Jora.
The bill was passed after opposing legislators were convinced by Jora.